(2003) Facing South

Words by Don Hannah | Music by Linda Catlin Smith

Staged as an “environmental” piece at a converted factory, Cherry Beach Sound.

Nominated for Best Production of an Opera – 2003 Dora Mavor Moore Awards.

The Story:


  • Sir Robert Peary (Baritone)
  • Josephine Peary, Robert’s wife (Mezzo)
  • Matthew Henson (Bass-baritone) Peary’s Afro-American assistant
  • Minik (Tenor)

The historical characters and story that form the basis for this opera represent a tragedy that is scarcely believable to our ears.

At the turn of the twentieth century, there was an international fascination with discovering the North Pole. Admiral Robert Peary’s well-equipped expeditions were privately funded from New York. On his third trip, Peary brought back three generations of one Inuit family as trophies of his “socialogical research” for the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Removed from their natural habitat and diet, the elders soon became sick and died. Only Minik survived. He was adopted by the curator of the Museum and educated in the public school system. The turning point comes when the teenaged Minik visits the Museum and sees, in a glass display case, the polished skeleton of an Inuit male. To his horror, the nameplate is that of his father. He demands of the Museum, Peary, and ultimately the US President, to be returned with his father’s bones to his homeland. Although he was successful in this request, subsequently re-learning his native tongue and becoming a courageous hunter, Minik ultimately returned to New York, where he died of influenza in 1931.

Facing South

by Linda Catlin Smith & Don Hannah
(World Première, 2003)
Director: Joanna McIntyre
Music Director: Wayne Strongman
Set & Costume Designer: Dany Lyne
Lighting Designer: Pierre Lavoie
Movement Design: Claudia Moore
Cast: Jean Stilwell, Sung Taek Chung, Gregory Dahl & James Martin


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