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Ausrine Stundyte as Cio-Cio-San, Elizabeth Janes as Butterfly’s child and Sarah Larsen as Suzuki in Seattle Opera's production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Photo by Elise Bakketun.
North American Works Directory Listing
Guacamayo's Old Song and Dance
John Oliver
Vancouver-born John Oliver began his musical studies with the guitar at the age of 8, studying classical guitar in his native Vancouver with Robert C. Jordan. Oliver went on to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied guitar with George Sakellariou, played in master classes for Leo Brouwer, Pepe Romero, Michael Lorimer, Abel Carlevarro and others, and also studied voice, piano and composition. His first composition teacher, the American composer John Adams, encouraged him to continue composing. After obtaining music degrees in composition from UBC and McGill (D.Mus.), Oliver studied briefly with Belgian composer Philippe Boesmans and completed perception research in Paris. During 1988/89 Oliver won six prizes for his compositions, including the Grand Prize at the CBC Young Composers' Competition. Since then he has been commissioned to write music for leading Canadian ensembles (Vancouver Symphony, Canadian Opera Company, National Arts Centre Orchestra, St. Lawrence String Quartet and others), and his music has been performed in North America and Europe. He has been Composer-in-Residence at the Music in the Morning Concert Series, the Canadian Opera Company, and most recently at the Windsor Canadian Music Festival. Oliver also performs a special "immersive sound" event using special guitars whose sound he transforms by realtime computer processing. His music appears on CDs from empreintes DIGITALes, earsay, CBC Records, ZaDiscs, SNE and McGill University Records.
Melissa Cameron
Conductor: Richard Bradshaw, Director: Francois Racine, Designer: Laara Cassells, Lighting Designer: Harry Frehner, Stage Manager: Fiona Macgregor
Guacamayo: Gary Rideout, Ixbalanque: Norine Burgess, Hunahpu: Valerie Gonzalez, Ixmucane: Wendy Nielsen, Ixpyacoc: Robert Milne
February 26, 1991
The story of Guacamayo's Old Song and Dance, a one-act opera for five singers and twelve instrumentalists performing on acoustic and electronic instruments, is drawn from the Popul Vuh, an ancient book of the Maya peoples, who still live in Guatemala and sounthern Mexico. In the opera, five contemporary Mayas (two grandparents, two grandchildren and a storyteller) give us a glimpse of their oral tradition by telling and enacting the story of Seven Macaw, and his two sons Zipacna and Cabracan--false gods pretending to be the creators of Light, the Mountains, and the Flatlands, respectively.

The story takes place in a time when people were made of wood. The (true) Creator-Gods, collectively referred to as "Hurikan" (from which we derive the word "hurricane"), had failed for the third time in their attempt to create the human race. They were just conceiving the sun and moon, and contriving a big flood to flush out the wooden people to make way for another try at the creation of mankind when they noticed these False Gods on the earth. Our story begins as the two boy-warrior-gods, Hunahpu and Ixbalanque (Eesh-ba-lan-kay) are on their way, sent by Hurikan, to trick the three False Gods into their own deaths.

The subsequent missions of trickery, recounted by these five people of today, take on increasingly contemporary significance as the storytellers reinforce the ancient Maya belief in eternal recurrence: events will come again, though differing in detail.
The Canadian Opera Company commissioned GUACAMAYO'S OLD SONG AND DANCE in 1989. The work was completed and produced in 1991, the first full-length opera to be produced by the Canadian Opera Company's Composer-in-Residence program, and the first commission by the Canadian Opera Company of a full-length opera since Louis Riel in 1967. The production reached 79 percent capacity.
Length is not available.
5 voices, brass, winds, synthesizers, samplers and percussion.
John Oliver

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