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Wild Dogs

Composer          AnnaPidgorna

Librettist            Val Brandt

An extraordinary new contemporary chamber opera based on the award-winning novel by Canadian author Helen Humphreys. Currently in development. 

Wild Dogs hunts down the innate wildness of the human heart and exposes the struggle between love’s wild power and our desire to domesticate it.

The story: Six strangers gather on a field each evening and call to their dogs who have joined a feral pack living in the wood. The strangers gradually form a pack of their own. One of the group, a brain-damaged young woman named Lily, is increasingly frustrated by the group’s unwillingness to search the wood. Inconsolable over the loss of her beloved dog, named Dog, she dares to enter the wood alone. 

3 Scenes - IN CONCERT 

May 24, 2017 at The Annex 

823 Seymour Street, Vancouver, BC

Standing Wave crowned their successful 2016-17 concert season with WILD, a collection of new works by fearless young composers, culminating in the first public performance of excerpts from Wild Dogs, featuring the sublime singing and acting of special guest soprano Carla Huhtanen as the fragile character, Lily.  ​The six musicians of Standing Wave played brilliantly as they always do! – but this night they were also heroic ‘vocally’ as wolves, dogs, frogs, katydids, howling wind, rustling leaves, and human characters in Lily’s hallucinations.

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Photo: Val Brandt, Anna Pidgorna, Rebecca Whitling, Allen Stiles, Peggy Lee, Carla Huhtanen Vern Griffiths, AK Coope, Christie Reside

November 1-2, 2016
The Post at 750, Vancouver
with Carla Huhtanen, soprano, and the musicians of Standing Wave 


REVIEW: “The showpiece of the concert was an excerpt from Anna Pidgorna’s one-act chamber opera currently still in progress.” “(Standing Wave) not only played their respective instruments at a high level of performance, but also impersonated the croaking of frogs and barking of dogs. Guest soprano Carla Huhtanen takes on the role of Lily through Val Brandt’s libretto with mesmerizing effect. Ms. Pidgorna’s music might be considered esoteric for universal taste, but it is certainly compelling!”  

- John Jane for ReviewVancouver

We focused on three scenes taking place in the wood, a magical world of rustling leaves, howling winds and splashing turtles, where Lily - now living with the pack - replaces her words with the yips and growls of dogs and mimics frogs and owls.

Anna's imaginative music, together with the brilliance and inventiveness (how do you make trees creak, turtles splash, icicles snap?) of Standing Wave, provided a rich soundscape for Carla's translucent voice and deeply moving portrayal of Lily.


​ Photo: Rebecca Whitling, Peggy Lee, Vern Griffiths, AK Coope, Christie Reside, Allen Stiles, Carla Huhtanen


July, 2015

The Post at 750, Vancouver


Photo: Allen Stiles and Carla Huhtanen work on their 'dog speak'

Under the insightful direction of dramaturge Ann Hodges, Val, Anna, Robert and six brilliant actors set out to bring this complex piece to life. Ann delved into the opera's structure and mined input and feedback from the team, and by the end of day three, we had a  solid dramatic arc, heightened emotional flow, and the actors were truly inhabiting the characters' world. At a full reading for invited guests, the libretto was loudly applauded and deemed ready for Val to refine in preparation for Anna’s composition process. 


Photo: (back) Anna Pidgorna, Kyle Jespersen, Heather Pawsey, Julia Arkos, David Adams, Ann Hodges, Val Brandt, Robert Carey. (front) Shawn Macdonald, Kayla Dunbar


Composer          Allan Gilliland
Librettist           Val Brandt

This popular opera for young audiences was commissioned by Calgary Opera's Emerging Artists Program and premiered in 2008 at Vertigo Theatre, Calgary, followed by an extensive tour of Alberta schools and communities, plus a gala performance at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

Hannaraptor was remounted by Calgary Opera and toured Alberta schools in 2013 –  and again in 2018.

The story: Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Alberta badlands, Hannaraptor tells the inspirational story of the struggle by a young girl, Hanna, to protect the family farm – and her secret discovery of a dinosaur skeleton with wings – in the face of a property developer’s greed.

For the story, media reviews, audience comments, photos:

Read Hannaraptor brochure 

"A magical and empowering experience.”

- Opera Canada magazine

The Untimely Death
of Whatsisname

Composer          Allan Gilliland
Librettist            Val Brandt

Creative development was overseen by Calgary Opera with funding from Sessions were also held at Banff Centre and Canadian Opera Company,Toronto.

Performed in concert at Arrata Centre in 2011 by Calgary Opera Emerging Artists, under the direction of Gordon Gerrard.

The story: Set in the swaggering showbiz world of professional wrestling, the opera follows burned-out, B-circuit wrestler Andy The Mongrel McNabb in his fight for recognition and respect. Andy’s obsession leads him to abandon the women who love him and the offspring he fathers. Now alone and dying, he seeks forgiveness from his grown children who are strangers to him and to each other. 

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