Opera McGill | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Opera McGill

Opera McGill (formerly McGill Opera Studio/Atelier d'opéra de McGill). Founded in 1956 by Edith and Luciano Della Pergola at the Faculty of Music of McGill University.

Opera McGill

Opera McGill (formerly McGill Opera Studio/Atelier d'opéra de McGill). Founded in 1956 by Edith and Luciano Della Pergola at the Faculty of Music of McGill University. It was called a Repertory Class 1968-70, an Opera Workshop 1970-4, and McGill Opera Studio from 1974, before the name Opera McGill was adopted in 1989. The workshop was directed jointly by the two teachers until 1977, when Luciano Della Pergola began to concentrate particularly on staging, while his wife directed the musical aspects of the productions. In 1986 the Della Pergola Scholarship was created to offer financial aid to students registered in the opera program. The couple retired in 1989 and was succeeded by Timothy Vernon (assisted by Bernard Turgeon), and William Neill (B MUS, M MUS Texas). In 1992 William Neill was joined by his wife, Dixie Ross-Neill (b Lincolnton, North Carolina, 1940, d Montreal 28 May 2007; B MUS North Carolina, M MUS Texas), who became the school's director of opera studies. In 2003 they were joint recipients of the Opera Educator Award. Patrick John Hansen became director of Opera McGill in 2007.


Between 1956 and 1990 nearly 40 different operas and more than 160 excerpts had been presented. From 1990 to 2002 Opera McGill produced over 40 performances, including 25 full-length operas on the main stage. Three to five productions, including one Baroque opera, are given annually. All are performed in the original language, and the majority of the soloists, chorus, and orchestra are students at McGill University. Both operas and excerpts are offered in costume, but the excerpts are presented in stylized staging and with piano accompaniment. In 1977 Barry Wiesenfeld was succeeded as accompanist by, among others, Monik Grenier and Marie-Thérèse Paquin. The orchestra has been conducted by Alexander Brott, Eugene Plawutsky, Michel Perrault, Uri Mayer, Richard Lawton, Timothy Vernon, Alexis Hauser and Julian Wachner.

The first program, given at the end of the 1956-7 season, featured Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona. Among the other complete works presented were Beckwith's Night Blooming Cereus; Britten's The Rape of Lucretia; Cimarosa's Il Matrimonio Segreto; Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande; Donizetti's Don Pasquale; Haydn's The Apothecary; Menotti's The Consul, The Telephone, and The Old Maid and the Thief; Mozart's Così fan tutte and The Marriage of Figaro; Poulenc's La Voix humaine; Puccini's Suor Angelica; Ravel's L'Heure espagnole; Vallerand's Le Magicien; the Canadian premiere of Malcolm Williamson's The Growing Castle; and two Bach cantatas.

Other Opera McGill performances have included Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea (1995-6); Rossini's La Cenerentola (1996-7); Peri's Euridice (1998-9); the world premiere of John Beckwith's Taptoo! (1999); Britten's Turn of the Screw (2001-2); Harry Somers' Louis Riel (2005); the world premiere of Wachner's Evangeline Revisited (2005); Bernstein's Candide (2006); Britten's Albert Herring (2007); and Lully's Thésée (2008). Productions have been held successively at Moyse Hall (McGill University), Redpath Hall, and Pollack Hall.

Further Reading

Challenge yourself - take the CC Quiz!

The Canadian Encyclopedia is a project of Historica Canada, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization devoted to teaching Canadians more about our shared country.  We also produce the Heritage Minutes and other programs. If you believe all Canadians should have access to free, impartial, fact-checked, regularly updated information about Canada’s history and culture in both official languages, please consider donating today. All donations above $3 will receive a tax receipt.

Book a Speaker