(2001) Iron Road
Words by Mark Brownell | Music by Chan Ka Nin
Part of the Millennium project, Iron Road was the first Canadian opera to be bilingual in Cantonese and English. It premiered at the Elgin Theatre in 2001. It performed to a total audience of 8,110 in 9 performances in Toronto, April 2001, and was nominated for 9 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, winner of Outstanding New Musical. It included a cast of 40 singers and dancers and an orchestra of 40 players, including traditional Chinese instruments.
In 1880’s China, Lai Gwan, a young impoverished woman, stands on the brink of momentous change. Her dying mother urges the girl to respect and honour the memory of her father, Manli, whose disappearance to the New World haunts them both.
Armed with the hope that she will find her father alive and, disguised as a boy, Lai Gwan braves the cruel voyage across the Pacific to work in the land of Gum San, the Golden Mountain.
When they reach Canada’s shore, the Chinese railway workers’ dreams of a better life collide with the brutal realities of the land, dangerous work, and harsh living. At the same moment, they meet the force of another collective dream: the historic laying of the last tracks of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Iron Road begins as a humble, individual quest and opens into the immigrants’ epic struggle for dignity and identity. Within the story, a poignant, forbidden romance takes shape and Iron Road ends on a note of reconciliation and hope.
Iron Road is truly a crossroads – where two vastly different cultures meet and strong characters confront their deepest fears and desires. A creative crucible for the melding of history, myth, and cultural styles, Iron Road is a story that brims with universal themes.
by Mark Brownell & Chan Ka Nin
(World Première 2001)
Director: Tom Diamond
Music Director: Wayne Strongman
Set & Costume Design: Dany Lyne
Lighting Design: Bonnie Beecher
Choreographer: Xing Bang Fu
Principal Cast: Grace Chan, Stuart Howe, Zhuge Zeng & Zheng Zhou
Photos by Cylla von Tiedemon (all rights reserved)