Beatrice Chancy
Composer: James Rolfe
Composer Bio: Toronto composer James Rolfe has been commissioned and performed by ensembles in Canada (including Arraymusic, Continuum, Esprit Orchestra, Soundstreams, and Vancouver New Music Society), the USA (Bang on a Can All-Stars, Cassatt Quartet), Europe (Ensemble Contrechamps de Genève, Ensemble Avant Garde, Ives Ensemble, Ixion Ensemble, Nash Ensemble, and Nieuw Ensemble), and New Zealand (175 East). He has received grants and commissions from The Canada Council, The Ontario Arts Council, The Toronto Arts Council, The Laidlaw Foundation, Opera.Ca, and CBC Radio. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000, the K. M. Hunter Music Award in 2003, the 2005 Louis Applebaum Composers Award, and the 2006 Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music. James Rolfe has written for chamber ensemble, orchestra, choir, voice, and the operatic stage. Among the latter is Beatrice Chancy, a tragedy set during the last days of slavery in Canada, which received an extraordinary reception from audiences and critics alike during productions by The Queen of Puddings Music Theatre Company between 1998 and 2001 in Toronto, Dartmouth, and Edmonton. His chamber opera Rosa and the masque Orpheus and Eurydice were both produced in 2004. Elijah’s Kite, an opera for children, was premiered in New York in April 2006 by Tapestry New Opera Works with the Manhattan School of Music, and given its Canadian premiere at Rideau Hall in October 2006. His new opera Swoon was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike at its December 2006 premiere by the Canadian Opera Company. James is currently working on new operas for the Queen of Puddings and for the Canadian Opera Company, as well as new works for the ASKO Ensemble (Netherlands) and Trio Mediaeval (Norway). Bio from the Aventa Ensemble website (
Librettist: George Elliott Clarke
Librettist Bio: George Elliott Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, near the Black Loyalist community of Three Mile Plains, in 1960. A graduate of the University of Waterloo (B.A., Hons., 1984), Dalhousie University (M.A., 1989), and Queen's University (Ph.D., 1993), he is now the inaugural E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. An Assistant Professor of English and Canadian Studies at Duke University, North Carolina, 1994-1999, Clarke also served at the Seagrams Visiting Chair in Canadian Studies at McGill University, 1998-1999, and as a Noted Scholar at the University of British Columbia (2002) and as a Visiting Scholar at Mount Allison University (2005). He has also worked as a researcher (Ontario Provincial Parliament, 1982-83), editor (Imprint, University of waterloo, 1984-85, and The Rap, Halifax, NS, 1985-87) social worker (Black United Front of Nova Scotia, 1985-86), parliamentary aide (House of Commons, 1987-91), and newspaper columnist (The Daily News, Halifax, NS, 1988-89, and The Halifax Herald, Halifax, NS, 1992-). He lives in Toronto, Ontario, but he also owns land in Nova Scotia. His many honours include the Portia White Prize for Artistic Achievement (1988), Governor-General's Award for Poetry (2001), the National Magazine Gold Medal for Poetry (2001), the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award (2004), and the prestigious Trudeau Fellow Prize (2005). Bio from the University of Toronto Libraries website (
Work Web Site:
Premiere Date: June 18, 1998
Description: Beatrice Chancy is set in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia in the year 1801. Beatrice is the daughter of a black slave woman who was raped by her white master. Raised in the master's household, Beatrice is beautiful, clever, kind and cultured - her father's prize possession. As her story opens, beatrice is sixteen and freshly returned from a convent school where she was sent "to copy white ladies' ways." Her declaration of love for a slave sparks tension that culminates in a monstrous act: the rape of Beatrice by her own father, Francis Chancy. from here, violence begets violence until Chancy is killed and Beatrice hanged for his death.
Length: Length is not available.
Total Acts: Not Available
Contact: Playwrights Guild of Canada
E-mail Address:
Publisher Web Site:
Schedule of Performances Listings
Beatrice Chancy (Rolfe)
Thursday, February 8, 2001 - Edmonton Opera
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