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SCPA’s The Double Hook is an opera with a cause

By Sidrah Anees, October 26 2017 —

Sheila Watson’s 1959 novel The Double Hook stands out as a masterpiece of drama and prose in Canadian literature. Set in a small B.C. town in the 1930s, it tackles themes of family, redemption and Canadian tradition in the aftermath of a murder. Fifty-eight years after its initial publication, the iconic Canadian work has been reimagined as an operatic concert by the University of Calgary’s William Jordan. The roughly two-hour performance consists of select excerpts from the adapted music drama.

As the School of Creative and Performing Arts’ only operatic performance this season, The Double Hook is unique in their event lineup. The multi-disciplinary project stars coloratura soprano Laura Hynes, a renowned vocalist and U of C professor. Hynes hopes The Double Hook will foster a love for opera in first-time viewers of the art form.

“It’s one thing to hear [operatic voices] on the radio. I think it’s a very different thing to hear them live in a concert hall. We’re training our voices to sing without amplification, except for the amplification of the acoustics of a hall. So when you’re in the same space with those voices resonating, that’s a really special experience,” she says. “It’s not about volume, it’s about this incredible resonance that surrounds you and envelops you in the hall and that’s what gets gives us chills. It’s exciting.”

Hynes plays the lead role of Greta, supported by a cast comprised of both university students and professional performers. Calgary Philharmonic violinist Donovan Seidle also joins with vocals and fiddle. The project has brought together members of the Calgary performing arts community and combined the talents of multiple departments at the U of C.

“I love that this is a collaborative work and it’s something that opens our doors to the community,” Hynes says. “It’s something that involves our students, faculty, friends and professionals from all over. I think that’s really emblematic of what we’re also trying to do with the SCPA.”

The theme of community is present not only within the story, but also in the production. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to B.C. wildfire relief efforts, a choice made by William Jordan to honour the roots of The Double Hook. It’s a cause that’s close to home — you spent the summer in Calgary, red sun and smoky skies were probably a familiar sight.

“We were designing this whole project over the summer and these places caught fire and were evacuated. So we put our heads together and thought, ‘Well, is there something we can do?’ I think there was a real need and there’s a continuing need,” Jordan says. “The Red Cross is an officiary and they have a special fund for the victims of the B.C. wildfires so we’re steering what money we get in that direction to try and mitigate it.”

Catch The Double Hook on Oct. 28 at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall in the Rozsa Centre for a one-night-only show. Tickets are $19–$26 and can be purchased at the door or online. U of C students can attend for free with their UCID through the Claim Your Seat program.

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