World premiere co-commissioned with Opera on the Avalon

Shanawdithit is a landmark Canadian-Indigenous world premiere, opening in Toronto, May 16-25, 2019. Following three seasons of award-winning world premieres, Tapestry is proud to collaborate and raise an artistic platform for Indigenous artists to tell this vital Beothuk story to a contemporary public.

Mezzo-soprano Marion Newman, noted for her “sumptuous mezzo tone and impressive vocal agility”, makes her Tapestry Opera mainstage debut as Shanawdithit.

Shanawdithit centres on the story of Shanawdithit (1801-1829), thought at the time of her death to be the last member of the Beothuk Nation in what is now called Newfoundland. In 1829, Shanawdithit was taken to St. John’s by William Cormack, where she created a series of ten drawings that speak of the life of her people, their encounters with the European settlers, and loneliness of survival. These detailed drawings form the basis of the opera.

Due to nearly all of the Beothuk’s published history being documented by Europeans and non-Indigenous historians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, this collaboration sheds a new light on a story and people misrepresented by deeply flawed documentation. The story and libretto is written and curated by celebrated Algonquin playwright Yvette Nolan, with a score composed by Newfoundlander Dean Burry.

Shanawdithit brings Indigenous artistic collaborators together from Nations across the country to give voice to Shanawdithit and her people, responding to the ten drawings that are the only first-person account of the life of the Beothuk. Led by Nolan, collaborators, performers, and Indigenous community members have been instrumental in the shaping of the work from the beginning of development, through a collaborative and workshop-driven creation process influenced by oral and visual histories passed down to them. The collaborators have studied each drawing and determined how to visually communicate the essence of Shanawdithit’s account, using dance, language, costume, photography, projections, sculpture and set design to effectively bring her drawings to life on the stage.

Running Time: 80 minutes, no intermission

What it Means to tell Shanawdithit's Story

MAY 16-25 2019

Music by Dean Burry | Libretto by Yvette Nolan

Featuring: Marion Newman as Shanawdithit


Thursday, May 16, 8:00 pm        
Saturday, May 18 4:00 pm
Tuesday, May 21, 8:00 pm
Wednesday, May 22, 8:00 pm
Thursday, May 23, 8:00 pm
Saturday, May 25, 8:00 pm


Shanawdithit – Marion Newman (Kwagiulth and Stó:lō)
Cormack – Clarence Frazer
Peyton, Man 1, Spirit Chorus – Asitha Tennekoon
Kwe/Spirit chorus – Rebecca Cuddy (Métis)
Spirit chorus/Mother – Deantha Edmunds (Inuk)
Simms/Man 2/Spirit Chorus – Evan Korbut (Ojibway)
Demasduit, Dancer, Spirit Chorus – Aria Evans (Mi’kmaq/Black/settler heritage)


Michelle Olson – Choreographer (Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation)
Lori Blondeau – Visual Artist (Cree/Saulteaux/Métis)
Jordan Bennett – Visual Artist (Mi’kmaq)
Jerry Evans – Visual Artist (Mi’kmaq)
Meagan Musseau – Visual Artist (Mi’kmaq)


Co-Directors – Michael Hidetoshi Mori and Yvette Nolan
Music Director – Rosemary Thomson
Set Designer – Camellia Koo (in conjunction with Artistic Collaborators)
Lighting Designer – Michelle Ramsay
Costume Designer – Kinoo Arcentales
Projection Designer – Cam Davis
Production Manager – Charissa Wilcox
Stage Manager – Kristin McCollum
Assistant Stage Manager – Lesley Bradley

Toronto City Opera Chorus – Alicia Ault, Basia Baron, Teodora Borcean, William Cahoon, Carmen Cameron, Michela Foschia, Beverly Gibson, Madeline Hannan-Leith, Lauren Levorson-Wong, Vivien Mann, Don Maudsley, Alexander Moss, Heather Pike, Vanessa Quinn, Brian Rosen, Nada Savicevic, Elaine Singer, Brennan Schommer, Trevor Rines, Esther Wang, Kathy Wert, Mark Wilson

TICKETS: $50 TO $150

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