Silent Light | House Program

About the Program

Silent Light, a new Opera workshop production influenced by the film Stellet Licht  by Carlos Reygadas. Set within a Mennonite community, the opera follows a pious husband and father, Johan, who’s strongly held spiritual obligation to his marriage, family, and community is put to the test when he falls in love with another woman from his faith.

Content Warning: Mature Themes & Sexual Content| Please turn off cellphones, photo/video cameras

Message from Artistic Director

Welcome! It is my absolute pleasure to welcome you all back to another season of Opera at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. This is my sixth summer as Artistic Director of “Opera in the 21st Century” and one of our best ones yet.

Our opera program continues to grow and expand year to year. This summer, we welcomed 29 participants from all over the world to come and experience opera at Banff Centre. We offered positions to 14 singers, 10 instrumentalists, 2 pianists, 2 stage directors and a conductor. This is our third season welcoming instrumentalists, which I believe is unique to any opera program that exists. The reason is to foster a new, more theatrical orchestral musician, who is integrated with the action of the music and performance practice.

We supported these participants by providing a world class faculty to work with them on all the skills needed to not only survive but thrive in the world of arts in 2019.

I believe strongly in the need to connect with our communities. We had over-capacity audiences at both our #OperaPub series at the Royal Canadian Legion #26 Colonel Moore Branch in Banff and held community concerts in both Banff and artsPlace in Canmore.

Our programming/training this summer focused on creation and working with living composers.

We’re presenting a work-in-progress in our Leighton Studios called No One’s Safe. This opera is loosely based on some of Mozart’s melodies, but we have commissioned Canadian composer Nicole Lizée to bring her unique voice to the music of this show. The staging calls for the audience to travel around the different studios and has proven to be a fun challenge for our production and artistic teams.

You’ll also see a new opera commissioned by Banff Centre called Silent Light. Music by Paola Prestini and text by Royce Vavrek. This work features our Artist-in-Residence Daniel Okulitch and is directed/designed by Thaddeus Strassberger. Creation is the way forward and a skill that is becoming more important than ever before.

Opera at Banff Centre will continue to thrust forward, while acknowledging and building on the foundations of the past.

Finally, I would like to thank the team here at Banff Centre for providing the support needed for us to achieve the success we are all striving for. They allow us to dream bigger and accomplish more. I hope to see you at the opera this summer.


Joel Ivany

Artistic Director, Opera

Additional Messages

Note from the Composer

"We decided on “Silent Light” because of the vast emotional canvas the film’s characters offer. There is no score, location sounds seem hard-edged, and when a hymn is sung, it is not a tune but a dirge. It was the perfect skeleton for an opera. Set among the 100,000 or so Mennonites living in Mexico, the leads double as a choir and embody them- people who deeply hold their values and try to act upon them, and yet who do not seem to be zealots. They will be accompanied by a string orchestra and Foley Artists.

“Silent Light” has a beauty based on nature and the rhythms of the land. It opens with a sunrise and closes with a sunset, and is a solemn and profound film about a man transfixed by love, which causes him to betray his good and faithful wife. How he fell into this love, we do not know. Certainly, Johan isn’t the kind to go straying. Nor is Marianne, the woman he loves, a husband stealer. That they are both good to the core is the source of their pain. Yes, Johan and Marianne have sex, but it is the strength of the film that not for a second do we believe they are motivated by sex – only by love. Esther, Johan’s wife and the mother of their six children, knows Marianne and knows about the affair. Johan has told her. He is a religious man and has also confessed to his father and his best friend. There is the sense that he will never leave Esther and never stop loving Marianne. He and Esther say they love each other, and they mean it. You see how love brings its punishment. At the end, Marianne tenderly kisses Esther and resurrects her. Ritual, every day life and finally, a moment of the surreal, tie the story together. This is a story of people trying to do their best."

- Paola Prestini


Director & Designer’s Statement

"We began this process with an outline. What the audience hears, sees, and smells at these workshop presentations is a glimpse into the development stages as we write, rehearse, rewrite, experiment and develop not only this story, but the very idea of a Foley opera itself.

The sound of the light is not silent at all. The moon beam shines on the blade of grass awakening a dormant beetle who crawls out only at twilight and suddenly whirrs into a mating frenzy. The first ray of sunlight evaporates the overnight dewdrops on the soggy leaves which slowly creak towards the heavens seeking another day of life and transformation. Passions buried deep in anxious souls scream out suddenly as the light of truth pierces the veil of secrets so meticulously, so vainly, constructed.

The darkest hour of the night. Stars twinkle, punctuating a void which draws your attention upwards, contemplating the vastness of the cosmos. The first rays of sunlight begin to streak across the landscape as the society awakens and begin to go about their daily lives.

A breakfast table. Tiny in the scale of the open vistas surrounding, Johan hears the clock which seems to tick imperceptibly faster with every swing of the pendulum. Other lives are soon revealed: Johan and Esther’s children waking up in their comfortable beds and preparing for their first meal of the day. The family gathers. The sound of the clock is increasingly unbearable. Johan interrupts time.

Men repair the tractor’s crankshaft. Sparks fly, the smell of molten metal infuses the air. The world rusts and deteriorate, but we have tools for repairing things, and they function once again.

Marianne is baking, the flour swirling in the air, creating a saint-like atmosphere above her as the morning light captures the floating specks. Soon, the aroma of her morning’s labours fills the air.

A spring gushes forth from the craggy rocks; the refreshing stream works its way down to the swimming hole. The children gleefully play in the cleansing waters, splashing and laughing, their purity completely unsoiled by the cares of the adult world.

Johan and Marianne meet in a spartan motel room. The carnal smell of sex surely permeates not only the noses, but also the hearts of those around, sensitive to the complexities of love and intimacy.

The sky darkens dramatically as Johan and Esther drive. She isn’t feeling well and gets out of the car and walks further and further away as the heavens open up. No longer able to cope with her pain, she collapses. Women of their tightly-knit community ritually cleanse her body and prepare her for burial; everyone pays their respects to Esther and her family.

As Marianne approaches her, the intimacy of the two women is palpable. The others cannot see what transpires between these two inextricably intertwined souls. Esther lives once again.

Johan’s father restarts the clock. The sunlight inexorably fades away behind the horizon as the everyday elements of furniture, cars, coffins, faces, slip once again into darkness. The first stars once again appear. The audience is utterly alone. Nothing is visible."

- Thaddeus Strassberger

Opera performances at Banff Centre are generously supported

by the David Spencer endowment encouragement fund.



Creative Team

ComposerPaola Prestini
LibrettistRoyce Vavrek
Stage Director / Scenic Costume DesignerThaddeus Strassberger
Assistant DirectorJulie McIsaac
Musical Director / Conductor | With the assistance of the Glenda Hess Artist AwardChristopher Rountree
Assistant Conductor | With the assistance of the Glenda Hess Artist AwardBrian Gilling
Lighting DesignerJason Hand
Lighting Designer* | With the assistance of the Anonymous Artist AwardElizabeth Richardson
Foley and Sound DesignSxip Shirey
Répétiteur | With the assistance of the Boris Roubakine Memorial EndowmentHolly Kroeker
Répétiteur | With the assistance of the Marnie Warrack Memorial Endowment AwardAndrea Van Pelt


JohanDaniel Okulitch
Esther | With the assistance of the Ruby Mercer EndowmentJonelle Sills
Marianne | With the assistance of the David Spencer Emerging Vocalists EndowmentKallie Clayton
Zacarias | With the assistance of the Eileen Higgin Calgary Theatre Singers Marcel d'Entremont
Esther's Mother | With the assistance of the David Spencer Emerging Vocalists EndowmentFrancesca Corrado
Father | With the assistance of the Lockwood Family Endowment Fund for MusicAlex Halliday
Understudy Johan/Chorus | With the assistance of the Benediktson Fellowship for Mexican ArtistsCarlos Arambula
Chorus/Alfredo | With the assistance of the Harold Douglas Brown EndowmentJohnathon Kirby
Chorus/Johan's MotherMidori Marsh
Chorus/Autghe | With the assistance of the Joyce and David Keith Scholarship for the ArtsLara Secord-Haid
Chorus/Cornelio | With the assistance of the T.C. Hargrave Scholarship in Voice EndowmentElias Theocharidis
Chorus | With the assistance of the Ruby Mercer EndowmentAndrew Adridge
Chorus | With the assistance of the Annie Romanchuk Endowment AwardGeorgia Burashko
Chorus | With the assistance of the CIBC Emerging Artists Scholarships EndowmentSarah Dufresne
Chorus | With the assistance of the Jenny Belzberg EndowmentAlexandra Smither
Child SupersOcean Reid, Julian Alverez-Zegarra, Roy Silvers, Victoria Greaves
Continued...Thor Chemko, Ashlyn Silvers, Katherine Moseley, Gwen Fullerton
Continued...Ignacio Alvarez-Zegarra, Ariel Mackintosh, Maria Valdez
A huge thank you to the parents of Ocean, Thor, Roy and Ashlyn, Katherine, Gwen, Ariel, Julian and Ignacio, Victoria, and Maria


ViolinMichael Jinsoo Lim
Trumpet | With the assistance of the Barbara and John Poole EndowmentDuncan Campbell
Trombone | With the assistance of the Husky Energy Artist AwardsAlexander Whyte
Cello | With the assistance of the Margaret (Peggie) Sampson Memorial EndowmentSophie Gledhill
Percussion | With the assistance of the John Linn Memorial AwardJessica Tsang


Head CoachMarie-Ève Scarfone
Acting & Improv CoachRebecca Northan
CoachSandra Horst
CoachJudith Forst
Intimacy DirectionAmanda Cutting

Stage Management

Stage ManagerMarijka Asbeek Brusse
Assistant Stage Manager* | With the assistance of the Kim and Jess Van Steenbergen Artist AwardMadison Henry

Program Management

Managing Director, Performing ArtsNathan Medd
Program ManagerKate Newby
Program CoordinatorJaida Regan
Program AssistantIsaac Earl


Managing DirectorKevin Tanner
Production ManagerGina Bennett
Technical ManagerPeter Eaton
Technical DirectorMurray Palmer
Technical Director* | With the assistance of the Marshall M. Williams EndowmentAndrea Rideout
Company ManagerMarcie Januska
Stage Management & Production AssistantTambry Bernath
Music Stage Management and Production Assistant* | With the assistance of the Laszlo L. Funtek EndowmentRose Jenkins
Stage Management & Production AssistantNurdjana de Rijcke
Production CoordinatorMeghan Borthwick
Production Administrative AssistantKelsey Sewell
Production TechnicianRaffi Tchalikian
Production TechnicianKatie German


Head of LightingMatt Flawn
Assistant Head of LightingDarrell Shaw
Lighting TechnicianSkyler Diotte
Lighting TechnicianThomas Giroux
Lighting TechnicianJames Thurmeier
Lighting TechnicianStuart Williamson
Lighting Technician* | With the assistance of the Canadian Pacific Hotels EndowmentAlexandra Carruthers
Lighting Technician* | With the assistance of the Banff Centre Artists' AwardsShireen Norouzi
Lighting Technician* | With the assistance of the Jeannie McWhinnie Endowment FundEvan Williams


Head Piano TechnicianAlbert Picknell
Assistant Piano TechnicianRobert Haist


Projection TehnologistCorwin Ferguson
Projection Technologist* | With the assistance of the Asper EndowmentRamona Caprariu
Projection Technologist* | With the assistance of the Ontario Artists FundJenny Erb


Head of PropertiesCarolyn Choo
Properties BuilderSteve Benson
Properties Builder* | With the assistance of the Sonja and Michael Koerner EndowmentYu Kyoung Kim
Properties Builder* | With the assistance of the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed EndowmentNicole Logan
Properties Builder* | With the assistance of the Sir Mark Turner Memorial Scholarships EndowmentCharlie Stuart-Grumbar

Scenic Art

Head Scenic ArtistAndrea Steinwand
Scenic Artist* | With the assistance of the Banff Centre Artists' AwardsShauna Jones
Scenic Artist* | With the assistance of the Sonja and Michael Koerner EndowmentTessa Pyrik

Scenic Carpentry

Scenic CarpenterChris Hayes
Scenic CarpenterRichard Green


Head of SoundLyle Fish
Assistant Head of SoundCharles Culver
Sound TechnicianSamantha Hindle
Sound TechnicianAlex Nieva
Sound TechnicianAndrew Philpott
Sound TechnicianCorey Wiles
Sound Technician* | With the assistance of the Bamff Centre Artists' AwardsBranden Boyd
Sound Technician* | With the assistance of the Ian S. Lee Memorial EndowmentJason Leal
Sound Technician* | With the assistance of the IBM Theatre Crafts EndowmentJohnathan Limbrick

Stage Carpentry

Head Stage CarpenterBruce McComb
Assistant Head Stage CarpenterBrett Rayner
Stage CarpenterLarry Farley
Stage CarpenterDave Miller
Stage CarpenterEmily Milne
Stage CarpenterTom Heemskerk
Stage Technician* | With the assistance of the Barbara Gyurka Award for Technical AchievementDana Marlese Achtem
Stage Technician* | Canadian Pacific Hotels EndowmentRebecca Reid


Head of WardrobePatsy Thomas
Assistant to the Head of WardrobeBarb Markert
Wardrobe CutterJudith Darough
Wardrobe First HandTira O'Daly
Wardrobe Maintenance TechnicianElena Vandakurova
Wardrobe StitcherLeah MacRae
Wardrobe Technician* | With theassistance of the Brent McLean and Sheila Wappel-McLean Artist AwardJonathan Beaudoin
Wardrobe Management* | With the assistance of the NOVA Corporation EndowmentAbbie Brokenshire
Wardrobe Manager, Wardrobe Technician* | With the assistance of the Sonja and Michael Koerner EndowmentShawnte Burrell
Practicum, Wardrobe Maintenance Technician* | With the assistance of the Donald and Stella Cameron MemorialOlivia Derksen
Wardrobe Technician* | With the assistance of the Marshall M. Williams EndowmentLindsey Kapitzke
Wardrobe Technician* | Harold Crabtree Foundation EndowmentJasmine Murray-Bergquist
Wardrobe Technician | With the assistance of the CUPE Local 4318 Scholarship FundHailey Urbanoski
Wardrobe Manager, Fanshawe Wardrobe Technician* | With the assistance of the Banff Centre Artists' AwardsSabrina Stace

Wardrobe - Boots & Shoes

Head of Boots & ShoesKathryn Neuman
Boots & Shoes Technician* | With the assistance of the CIBC Emerging Artists Scholarships EndowmentRebecca Antonakis
Boots & Shoes Technician* | With the assistance of the Banff Centre Artists'AwardsColin Wintz

Wigs & Make-up

Head of Wigs & Make-upLaura Lee Osborne
Wigs & Make-up Technician* | With the assistance of the Banff Centre Artists' AwardsMicaela Burke
Wigs & Make-up Technician* | With the assistance of the Gertrude and Ernest E. Poole EndowmentGuillaume Carpentier
* denotes Practicum Participant Please note financial assistance to participants and practicums is made possible through Banff Centre Scholarships and through the various scholarship funds named above.