The NAC turns 50 with new summer programming, a NACO tour and much more

Reza Jacobs and Max Roll star in 2 Pianos 4 Hands. Photo: Max Telzerow

In this, its 50th anniversary season, the National Arts Centre is making a serious foray into summer programming with the announcement that it will stage three major productions.

The centre will bring back a pops concert that has been a favourite in the past. NACO will perform Warner Brothers’ Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II. While the music of Looney Tunes is being played by the orchestra the characters — Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Pepe Le Pew, Tweety, Sylvester the cat, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner — will be on the big screen July 5 and 6 in Southam Hall.

The NAC’s Dance department will reprise a performance of Dance Me by Les Ballet Jazz de Montréal. The multimedia show is built on the music of Leonard Cohen, and approved by the man himself before he died. Shows are on July 11 and 12 also in Southam.

Finally English Theatre will offer the musical-comedy 2 Pianos 4 Hands, the iconic show by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt. This version of the 20 year old show about two guys trying to make it as pianists, runs from July 18 to Aug. 3 will star Reza Jacobs and Max Roll.

Along with these summer steps, plans are taking shape for the year-long 50th anniversary celebration of the NAC’s opening in 1969.

As told to ARTSFILE by NAC President and CEO Christopher Deacon, the 50th anniversary gets started with an appearance by the National Ballet of Canada at the end of January.

On the weekend of Feb. 7 and 8, the Big Bang Festival, based on an event that got its start in Europe a few years ago, will open the centre up to children of all ages with two packed days of performances.

A scene from Dance Me. Photo: Marc Montplaisir

The centre will announce new seasons in late February and early March which will reveal plans for the fall, but beforehand the NAC Orchestra will celebrate its own 50th birthday with a major tour of Europe.

Some information about the tour is already available.

The first performance will be in Cambridge, England’s Saffron Hall on May 12 featuring pianist Jan Lisiecki and a program that includes Ana Sokolovic’s Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major and Dvorak’s New World Symphony. NACO then travels to London for a performance at Cadogan Hall on May 14, then to Paris for a two day residency at La Scene Musical where it will perform Life Reflected,a quartet of new compositions based on four Canadian women that debuted in 2016. After Paris, NACO travels to Utrecht, The Netherlands where they will be joined by the soprano Erin Wall and violinist James Ehnes. Next is Copenhagen on May 22; Stockholm, Sweden on May 24 and finally Gothenburg, Sweden on May 26 where Life Reflected will be performed.

Life Reflected will also be performed on March 8 (International Women’s Day) along with a performance by Tanya Tagaq who will sing Qiksaaktuq, a lament for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The NAC will host the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards on April 27. The event will acknowledge the 50th anniversary, ARTSFILE has learned.

The centre is also planning a party and open house on June 2, the actual 50th birthday. More details about that will emerge in coming weeks.

Before the summer starts in earnest, the NAC will also offer a nod to founding music director Mario Bernardi, who lived and breathed opera, with a concert performance of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro (June 12-14) featuring Pembroke, Ontario’s Joshua Hopkins in the lead.

Also in August, the NAC will be ringing with the music of the smash hit musical Come From Away which begins a run on Aug. 20.

It will end just in time for the signature event of the fall — and perhaps the entire year — at the NAC, the formal launch of the new department of Indigenous Theatre, led by Artistic Director Kevin Loring. The launch will be preceded by what the NAC is calling an Indigenous ‘takeover’ of the centre. Exactly what that means … TBA.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.