QUEBEC – Opera singers and base metal miners rarely have the opportunity to rub shoulders, but that is what happened at the Raglan nickel-copper mine in Nunavik. The mine is owned by Xstrata Nickel that also sponsors the Canadian Opera Company‘s (COC) Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour. This year, Xstrata suggested that the COC bring its production of Cinderella to its northernmost location in Canada.
The Raglan mine is located near two of the 14 Inuit communities that make up Nunavik (pop. 10,500) – Salluit (pop. 1,241) and Kangiqsujuaq (pop. 605). Both villages have a close relationship with Xstrata, and the company felt that the COC could offer an exciting and vibrant way to bring opera into their lives.
On Nov. 15, 2010, the Cinderella team of five singers, one music director-pianist, one stage manager, two COC staff and one photographer departed from Toronto on what was to become a trip of a lifetime.
The first full day in Nunavik was to have been spent in Salluit, but the weather made it impossible to fly. The decision was made to try to reach both villages the following day. Meanwhile, the planned program of opera arias was given at the mine site that evening which freed up the entire second day for the village trips.
The following day featured perfect weather, so the Cinderella team flew to Salluit. More than 200 children gathered in the school gym to enjoy the show. The youngsters loved it, and reportedly treated the cast like rock stars.
After lunch and a quick flight to Kangiqsujuaq, the show was repeated for another 200 delighted school children. Following the show, members of the community demonstrated parts of their culture for the COC team. Over tea and bannock, the Cinderella cast and crew listened to storytelling, played string games and admired handmade fur clothing.
The one-day visit to two communities brought the COC’s Cinderella to approximately 400 students and community members – a hefty 21% of the population of the two villages combined, and an amazing 4% of the total population of Nunavik.
Xstrata rounded out their COC visitors’ with tours of Raglan mill and one of the four underground mines.