Dáirine Ní Mheadhr

Dáirine Ní Mheadhr, Conductor and Co-Artistic Director of the Queen of Puddings Musical Theatre, arrived in Toronto from Ireland in 1994

“Landing in Toronto 15 years ago felt like diving into an explosion of choice unknown in Ireland. So many different cultures, music, food, languages…even lunch was complicated. What kind of bread? What kind of mayo? What kind of mustard? The discovery that the world’s best opera singers live in Canada took about 3 minutes. Ordering a ham sandwich would clearly take a lot longer…”

Dáirine Ní Mheadhr

A native Gaelic speaker, Dáirine Ní Mheadhra began her professional career at the age of seventeen as a cellist with the Irish National Symphony Orchestra. In subsequent years Dáirine developed an interest in both conducting and contemporary music. In 1990 she founded the new music ensemble Nua Nós. This ensemble comprised the principal chairs of the Irish National Symphony Orchestra and rapidly established itself as the leading exponent of contemporary music in Ireland. Nua Nós was awarded an AIB Better Ireland Arts Award in 1995, and in the same year Dáirine immigrated to Canada to join her new Canadian husband John Hess. They founded Queen of Puddings Music Theatre and under her inspired direction as resident Artistic Director, Queen of Puddings has emerged as a bold and provocative leader of contemporary opera in Canada.

Spectacular Queen of Puddings successes include Beatrice Chancy (1999), the first opera about Canadian slavery (music James Rolfe, libretto George Elliott Clarke) which launched the career of Canadian superstar singer Measha Brueggergosman. The Midnight Court (2005) based on the famous Gaelic poem of the same name (music Ana Sokolovic, libretto adaptation Paul Bentley) premiered in Toronto and was chosen by Toronto’s critics as one of the Top 10 shows of 2005 in all genres by The Globe and MailThe Toronto Star and Eye Weekly. Queen of Puddings made its international debut in 2006 when it toured The Midnight Court to the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London, the first Canadian company to perform at this prestigious venue. Love Songs (music Ana Sokolovic, selected love poems) premiered in March 2008 and toured to Montreal, Ljubljana, Zagreb and Paris in April 2009, and was chosen as the best production of the International Zagreb Music Biennale. In February 2009, the company presented the world premiere in Toronto of Inês, a new chamber opera inspired by Portuguese Fado music (music James Rolfe, libretto Paul Bentley) which tours to Portugal in 2011. Other creations in development include Svadba (music Ana Sokolovic, text Antoine Laprise), a tour-de-force for six female singers using Balkan folkloric music as an inspiration, and Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour (music Fuhong Shi, John Rea, Pierre Klanac, selected poems) a Chinese, English and French language triptych for two female voices and accordion.

Cast from The Midnight Court Opera production. Photo by Guntar Kravis

Portuguese singer Inês Santo in the Inês production, Photo credit John Lauener

 

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