Canada’s First and Only Opera Documentary Film THE LAKE Premieres at DOXA Film Festival

The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ, a unique documentary opera about the groundbreaking cross-cultural collaboration between Vancouver’s Astrolabe Musik Theatre, the Turning Point Ensemble and Westbank First Nation, will premiere in British Columbia on May 6, 2022 at 7:45 p.m. at the VIFF Center VanCity Theater, with a second screening May 12 at 7:45 p.m. at SFU’s Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema, as part of the DOXA Documentary Film Festival. The lake /nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ is also available online.

Produced by Heather Pawsey of Astrolabe Musik Theater with Producer/Director John Bolton from Opus 59 Films, The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ is an inspiring musical documentary about an extraordinary friendship between two female singers and teachers – Heather Pawsey of Vancouver’s Astrolabe Musik Theater and Delphine Derickson of Westbank First Nation – and the groundbreaking cultural collaboration in which they decolonized historic Canadian opera by incorporating Syilx/Okanagan perspectives.

The film brings to life all of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous storytelling, music and dance from the original production, alongside an invigoratingly honest oral history of the project’s successes and failures.

It’s a film about a journey that is, in itself, a continuation of that journey. Filled with laughter and tears, and alive with the rhythm of water and wind, The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ celebrates the magic that is possible when people start to really listen to each other.

From 2012 to 2014, Astrolabe Musik Theater and Vancouver’s Turning Point Ensemble collaborated with artists, Elders, knowledge keepers and community members from Westbank First Nation to co-create The Lake/n’-ha-a-itk, which decolonized British Columbia composer Barbara Pentland and Canadian poet Dorothy Livesay’s long-lost 1952 opera The Lake with Syilx/Okanagan culture and perspective and a new work commissioned by Japanese-Canadian composer (British Columbia resident) Leslie Uyeda.

The world premiere and three performances took place in August 2014 at Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, the original “Sunnyside Ranch” of Susan and John Allison (the first European settlers in what is now West Kelowna): the actual site of the real life events of the 1873 opera and the traditional ancestral lands of the Syilx/Okanagan people.

Filmed on location at Westbank First Nation, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery and Vancouver, The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ is the first and only Canadian opera to have been shot specifically as a film.

True cross-cultural collaboration

The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ features Delphine Derickson, elder, artist, knowledge keeper and teacher from Westbank First Nation; founding artistic director of Astrolabe Musik Theatre, soprano Heather Pawsey; Corinne Derickson, Jordan Coble and Krystal Withakay of Westbank First Nation; Glenn Deneault of the Shuswap/secwépemc Nation; British Columbia composer Leslie Uyeda; Owen Underhill and Jeremy Berkman of the Turning Point Ensemble; and Vancouver opera singers Angus Bell, Kwangmin Brian Lee and Barbara Towell.

The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ is a Telus original, produced with support from the Vancouver Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, Creative BC & Amplify BC, Central Okanagan Foundation, Deux Mille Foundation, Hamber Foundation , the SOCAN Foundation and the Ambache Charitable Trust, and with sponsorship from Westbank First Nation, Turning Point Ensemble, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery and the Canadian Music Center in British Columbia.

The documentary Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ had its world premiere in Montreal on March 24, 2022, as part of the Le FiFa International Film Festival on Art.

The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ, a unique documentary opera

May 6, 2022 at 7:45 p.m. at the VIFF Center VanCity Theater

May 12, 2022 at 7:45 p.m. at SFU’s Djavad Mowafaghian Theater

Also available online.