The World Premiere of "Isis and Osiris, Gods of Egypt" took place on April 1 and 3, 2016 at the St.Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto. STANDING OVATIONS followed both performances. Excellent reviews confirm opera's success:
"World premiere of Canadian opera a testament to expertise" - Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail
"A marvellous success" -Michael Johnson, Concertonet
"A delicious, musical feast...You all need to hear this work." - Gregory Finney
"one of the most promising new Canadian operas I have seen in years." - Christopher Hoile, Stage Door
The myth of Isis and Osiris tells the story of the first living gods of Egypt. This larger-than-life tale depicts the first great love story of humankind and the first evil act in the world.
Seth, the jealous brother of Osiris has a monstrous plan to take over the kingship of Egypt. Having failed once to rid himself of Osiris, Seth does not take any chances the second time – he cuts the body of Osiris into thirteen pieces and buries them all over Egypt. One part however– the phallus – is thrown into the Nile, never to be retrieved.
In an epic journey, Isis searches the entire kingdom until she finds the broken pieces of her husband’s body and brings them to a hidden cave in the Valley of the Dead.
Isis sings as she binds the body together with strips of linen -- the first Egyptian mummification.
The evil, ominous presence of Seth tries to prevent Isis from her monumental task. Yet, magically, through her extraordinary powers, Isis manifests the missing part of Osiris’ body, but she must still try to revive him. The opera builds towards this perilous moment when Isis, intoning incantations, and risking her own life, calls on the spirit world to bring the soul of Osiris back to the land of the living.
Even the gods hold their breath, waiting to see if Isis is able to revive the dead. Using every ounce of her wisdom and strength she defies natural law as she works to bring life back into the moribund body of her husband Osiris.
Then Osiris awakens! Confused and in terrible pain, Osiris pleads with Isis to let him sink back into the spirit world. But Isis is determined to fulfill their duty – to bring their son Horus into the world who will be the progenitor of a line of pharaohs.
Their overwhelming love for each other is palpable as Isis uses her mystical powers to alleviate his pain.
Like a gasping fish returned to the sea, Osiris expands with life. The stronger Osiris gets, the more pain Seth feels.
Basking in a love that has transcended the boundaries of life and death, Isis and Osiris dance together. Their son Horus is conceived. The heavens explode with lightning as the gods rejoice.
After their joyous reunion, Isis and Osiris must part forever. They walk offstage in two separate directions, knowing that Osiris will rule the underworld and make a home in the stars. Isis will bring their son Horus into the world. It will be up to Horus to fight the final battle with Seth in the war of good versus evil.
ISIS AND OSIRIS The first stage of the opera was produced in partnership with The Art Gallery of Ontario and performed on the premises in Walker Court on March 31, 2010, during the KING TUT EXHIBIT. ISIS AND OSIRIS is currently being developed into a full opera for the World Premiere at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto.
The age-old fascination with the remarkable culture of Ancient Egypt brought the travelling King Tut Exhibit to Toronto where three quarters of a million visitors saw this exhibit in 1979. This live performance of the Isis and Osiris opera intensified the public’s overall experience of seeing the King Tut Exhibit by providing a deeply human portrayal of the two major personalities of Egyptian myth: Isis, the queen of the gods and the sister and spouse of King Osiris, whose very name evokes the panoply of the mysteries of Ancient Egypt. The opera humanized the art objects and give visitors a rare opportunity to personally connect with this ancient civilization.
Toronto’s newly renovated art gallery was the ideal setting for the first performance of this new opera. The outstanding acoustics of Walker Court were well suited for voice and piano accompaniment and the venue itself has a special, almost sacred quality that reflected and supported the splendid nobility of the story.
From the realm of the ancient past, in a period of pre-history, the story of Isis and Osiris survived for an untold number of centuries before it was written down in the Pyramid Texts, the oldest known religious texts in human culture where the myth developed and expanded into the later Coffin Texts and The Book of the Dead.
Isis is the great goddess of antiquity with all the powers of the first gods. She was called Queen of Heaven, Mother of the Gods, Lady of Green Crops, The Brilliant One in the Sky, Star of the Sea, Great Lady of Magic, Mistress of the House of Life, and Lady of the Words of Power.
Isis was worshipped for thousands of years in Ancient Egypt. Her worship continued long after Ancient Egyptian civilization ended with the death of Cleopatra. When Christian churches took over all the Isis temples in the 6th century C. E., these temples were rededicated and the archetypal mother and son image of Isis and Horus in the statues found in these temples were renamed for Mary and Jesus and became one of the prototypes of Christian iconography.
THE major myth of Ancient Egypt, the story of Isis and Osiris lends itself extremely well to the operatic form, as nothing less than a grand conception can hope to convey the larger-than-life tale of the first great love story in world literature with its elements of incest, sibling jealousy and fratricide, the quest for immortality and an archetypal battle between good and evil, which resonates through the centuries in our own great love stories and dramatic literary tragedies.
Isis and Osiris is the first opera to mine dramatic material from the riches of Ancient Egyptian myth -- before the Greeks, before the Romans, there was the Egyptian empire that lasted for three thousand years and it is upon this culture that much of western civilization is forged. Building on the operatic successes of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Philip Glass’ Akhenaten and Verdi’s grand opera Aida, one of the most popular operas ever written, Isis and Osiris explores a pre-history only revealed in the spectacular archaeological finds in Egypt of the 19th and 20th centuries which have created an insatiable desire for things Egyptian –for its antiquity, its mysteries, its exotic tales, and its superbly beautiful art.
This myth of ancient Egypt grabbed my attention and will not let go. In this libretto inspired by ancient Egyptian culture, I have been able to give voice to my respect and love for the harmony and beauty that the people of this civilization created – the art, the pyramids and graceful temples, the colossal sculpture, the love poetry, the fine jewellery of gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian and turquoise, the intricate design of their furniture, and even the look of the hieroglyphs which have a magnificent eternality to them. I marvel at the ways they expressed their longing for eternal life in glorious death masks and massive sarcophagi. As much as these objects and images reflect the human realm, they are also somehow beyond it – somehow supernal.