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The Royal Winnipeg Ballet's 'Wizard of Oz' is a highlight of the 2019–2020 dance season. Photo: David Cooper.

Season Preview 2019–2020: National Arts Centre music, theatre and dance lineups

By Greggory Clark on March 16, 2019








There’s a lot to take in from the recent announcement of more than 100 shows.

Today, the National Arts Centre website was updated with listings for the Orchestra, Dance, English and French Theatre, and the NAC Presents songwriters series.

On view is a wide spectrum of artistic expressions across all the NAC’s performance art disciplines; including the world premieres of local new works, emerging and acclaimed Canadian talents, guest-starring a number of international touring artists.

Kevin Loring, Artistic Director of the new Indigenous Theatre company, will announce its inaugural season on April 30.

Apt613 Highlights

NACO Music Director & Principal Conductor Alexander Shelley. Photo: Dwayne Brown.


The NAC Presents concert lineup is headlined by big names like Buffy Sainte-Marie (Sept. 15), Tanya Tagaq (Sept. 24), and Jeremy Dutcher (Sept. 25). The trio of Polaris Music Prize winners are joined by Ottawa’s Kellylee Evans (Dec. 21) and Russel, Ontario’s Tara Shannon (Nov. 8). Grammy Award-winner Chilly Gonzales (Jan. 18) returns for the second time in as many years.

Susan Aglukark. Artwork: Heather Campbell. Photo: Denise Grant.

The Juno Award-winning Inuk artist Susan Aglukark—who received the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Ottawa in 2016—will host a music and storytelling concert (Sept. 20) backed by the NAC Orchestra in Southam Hall.

L’auteur-compositeur-interprète québecois, le légendaire Robert Charlebois (12 oct.) se rendra en tournée en France, en Belgique et au Québec pour son 75e anniversaire. Son spectacle rétrospectif, Robert en CharleboisScope, est un spectacle multimédia à l’échelle immense d’un « écran grand comme deux maisons » créé avec l’aide de 4U2C (collaborateur de Jay Z et Justin Timberlake) et de Champagne Club Sandwich (Jain, Dead Obies). Dans les propres mots de Charlebois, « un tabernak de spectacle ! » Une série de trois nuits à la Place des Arts à Montréal s’est vendue si rapidement que les présentateurs en ont ajouté quatre concerts supplémentaires. En ce moment, Ottawa est la seule ville de tournée canadienne à l’extérieur du Québec.

For their milestone anniversary, Music Director Alexander Shelley (Oct. 3) and Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds (Sept. 30) will take turns conducting the NACO in a pair of “legacy” concerts billed as 50 Years of Music with the NAC Orchestra. Storgårds’s program is Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra (1954) and the Nordic Fanfare (2002) by Faroe Islands composer Sunleif Rasmussen. Shelley has selected Bartók (Concerto for Orchestra, 1944), Salieri (Concerto for Flute and Oboe, 1774), as well as contemporary music commissioned by the NAC, The Dark Angel Suite (2017) by Canadian composer Kevin Lau.


The Royal Winnipeg Ballet and The National Ballet of Canada are notable headliners of the NAC Dance season. Both will perform in Southam Hall accompanied by the NACO—the production value of these shows is immense.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is bringing The Wizard of Oz (Jan. 23–25). “This is where ballet meets Broadway,” says a press release, as Dorothy and co. are brought to life by acclaimed Cuban-American choreographer Septime Webre. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Webre says this isn’t even his first—or second—crack at Oz. When he was 12, Webre and his six older brothers built a DIY puppet theatre (“It was very Von Trapp Family…”) and toured their 30-minute production to nursing homes and churches (“It was actually quite professional.”) When Webre was 16, he led a youth program at the Texas School for the Blind and produced an adaption in which the principal roles were played by blind and sighted teenagers. It ran for two summers.

Sophia Lee in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Photo: David Cooper.

Next spring, the Toronto-based National Ballet of Canada is treating Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Apr. 2–4), an adaptation commissioned and premiered by the National in 2011. It’s choreographed by the Russian-born former ballet dancer Alexei Ratmansky, who was a principal dancer with the aforementioned Royal Winnipeg Ballet in the 1990s and went on to become artistic director of Moscow’s famed Bolshoi Ballet.


For 2019–2020, artistic directors Jillian Keiley (NAC English Theatre) and Brigitte Haentjens (Théâtre français du CNA) programmed a variety of new works, touring plays, and shows which draw from historic musical bodies e.g. Requiem pour L. (May 20–22) which reframes Mozart’s Requiem « sous la forme d’une exaltante danse-chorale africaine » ; or Parce que la nuit (Oct. 16–19), an overview of the life and work of Patti Smith co-written by Haentjens and Dany Boudreault.

Le cinquième texte de Fabien Cloutier, qui signe aussi la mise en scène, Bonne retraite, Joceylne (Oct. 2–5) est son premier œuvre porté à la scène du CNA. Ça tourne autour de Joceylne, qui vient d’annoncer une grande nouvelle à sa famille : à cinquante-cinq ans, elle prend sa retraite de la fonction publique. Elle désire souligner son départ à la retraite avec un bon dîner en famille. Mais comme dans toute bonne réunion de famille… autour de la table on voit poindre la jalousie, les faiblesses, les bonnes intentions, les préjugés, les maladresses, le choc des valeurs… « C’est souvent très drôle… » a écrit Geneviève Bouchard, critique de théàtre, mais aussi « [Cloutier] souligne le fait que ce n’est pas parce qu’on rit que c’est toujours drôle. »

Ben Caplan in ‘Old Stock’. Photo: Stoo Metz.

Our highlight of the English Theatre season is the return of Ottawa’s own Hannah Moscovitch; 2b Theatre’s hit klezmer music-theatre hybrid Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story (Oct. 16–27) which stars the riveting singer-songwriter Ben Caplan, directed by Christian Barry. It’s the true story of Moscovitch’s Jewish Romanian great-grandparents who arrived in Canada in 1908 as refugees fleeing the pogroms. “Yeah, it is a dark topic,” Moscovitch told Apt613, “but I should say it’s a love story… We tell a lot of jokes ’cause that’s how Jews get out of pain, you know.” Old Stock premiered at the 2017 Canada Scene festival in Ottawa and has been touring internationally ever since.

Visit for the complete lineup and schedule.