Hello and welcome!
Whether you are a performer prospecting for a teacher, an organization searching for guidance, or an opera company looking for a conductor (Grace à Dieu!), I’m available! After 35 years of devoting my life to the running of Tapestry (yes, running, and only just ahead of the crowd), my passion for conducting, accompanying and teaching has led to new exciting areas of consulting, advising, and brainstorming. I find myself ready for the next “big thing”, the project that will consume my creative energies which are now at their peak. One more opportunity to “go big or go home”! I look forward to hearing from you, and hope you enjoy this portrait of my artistic journey. Collegially Yours,
One of Canada’s most distinguished music directors, Wayne Strongman is a champion of Canadian writers and composers. As Founding Artistic Director of Tapestry, he commissioned and premiered more than 30 new Canadian operas including the Cantonese-English Iron Road (Brownell / Chan) for the 2001 Millennium, Facing South (Hannah / Smith), The Shadow (Poch-Goldin / Daniel), and Nigredo Hotel (MacDonald / Gotham), the most frequently produced Canadian opera in history. He conducted the premiere of Shelter (Salverson / Palmer) for Edmonton Opera and Elijah’s Kite (Chai / Rolfe) at the Manhattan School of Music.
Strongman is in demand as a conductor, lecturer and musical dramaturge in Canada and beyond. Recent engagements include conducting Donizetti’s Rita and Walton’s The Bear for Highlands Opera, R. Murray Schafer’s Felix’s Girls for Toronto’s SING Festival, and musical dramaturgy for Shoestring Opera’s new Hansel and Gretel (after Humperdinck). For Toronto’s Luminato Festival, Strongman conducted the world premiere of Dark Star Requiem (Battson / Staniland), his second premiere for Luminato, after Sanctuary Song (Chan / Richardson).
Wayne Strongman has had the privilege of working with creative and performing artists at the Banff Centre, the National Arts Centre, and the Universities of Toronto and Wilfred Laurier, and the Manhattan School of Music as well as directing projects with Vancouver New Music, Montréal’s Centaur Theatre, American Opera Projects in New York, and Scottish Opera in Glasgow. Many of Strongman’s performances have been broadcast nationally on the CBC. As mentor to countless creative initiates into contemporary opera, Mr. Strongman is a master coach and interpreter.
His commitment to a contemporary vocal practice has made Strongman an interpretive collaborator for many Canadian singers. Named one of 50 Canadian Ambassadors for New Music by the Canadian Music Centre, Strongman was made a Member of the Order of Canada for his innovative leadership of Tapestry and his volunteer work with the Regent Park School of Music.
Wayne Strongman receiving the Order of Canada from Governor General, Michaëlle Jean
As she was pinning the CM medal on me, Her Excellency, Governor General Michaëlle Jean said to me: “We have to talk about art as a vehicle for social change.” It wasn’t the first time I had been up close and personal with this amazing woman. Two years before, we had sat together for performances of Elijah’s Kite (James Rolfe / Camyar Chai) for families from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, who had all received formal invitations from Rideau Hall to attend an opera about schoolyard bullying.
Her comment riveted my attention on the work that had brought me such an honour. Without knowing it, without even an inkling of the emerging pattern, the creative artists’ visions I had been privileged to carry through to public performance had imbued me with an insidious desire to change people’s thinking: about history, about society, about Canada.
With its ability to immediately suspend disbelief (the intellect) and go for the jugular of emotion, opera is a live vehicle to explore tough topics. Facing South (Linda Caitlin Smith / Don Hannah) exploded the glory of Sir Edmund Peary’s assault on the North Pole, as understood through Minik, the only survivor of a fund-raising effort that brought three generations of Inuit from Greenland, eventually to die and remain as kept specimens in the basement of New York’s Museum of Natural History. Iron Road (Ka Nin Chan / Mark Brownell) revealed (in the millennial year), the cost of the iconographic CPR: more than 6,000 Chinese immigrant workers who gave their lives to blast a path through the Rockies.
Rodney Sharman and Atom Egoyan created Elsewhereless as a fictional story that, unfortunately, lived to reality in the Rwanda massacres. I gave ten of my 35 Tapestry years to developing Oksana G. (Aaron Gervais / Colleen Murphy) which will – finally – have its wrenching debut this season and explore the cost to humanity of the sex trade cartels, even here in Toronto. Dark Star Requiem (Andrew Staniland / Jill Battson) animated the AIDS virus into a seductress while condemning the various parts of society that ignored her power. Shelter (Juliet Palmer / Julie Salverson) brought the Highway of the Atom to life in a fable about a nuclear family revealing the devastating beauty of the first atomic bomb and its implications for Canada.
Even the children’s productions that preceded Elijah’s Kite explored societal issues: Little Red (David Passmore / Greg Peterson) re-worked the Red Riding Hood story into a street-proofing opera for children. In review, I now see the veracity of Michaëlle’s words. There have been many other stimulating stories and teams who have come forward through Tapestry’s LibLab. But, in my tenure, it was only those that challenged our audience to see themselves and the world we inhabit that made it to the stage. Yes, I implored, pleaded, and cajoled the artists to make the story clear. Mostly I strove to give the audience an opportunity to think.
“Music, the indispensable language of worship, leads its followers to the threshold of that primal Harmony for which the world is made. Wayne is a master interpreter and guide along the way."
“Wayne Strongman – our champion of contemporary opera.”
”Wayne is an alchemist with a knack for bringing artists together and creating musical gold.”
"Grace under pressure best describes Wayne Strongman in a rehearsal. The stress level can be high when working on contemporary music; Wayne has a calming and encouraging approach that lets the room relax."
“What I admire about you is your clear vision and relentless pursuit of that vision…”
“Wayne opened doors that I had never known to exist in the world of opera creation and interpretation. His powerful vision and charismatic leadership started a movement and legacy that I am inspired and privileged to be a part of. He is the ultimate interpretive conductor, his passion and brio catalyze the singers and musicians he leads to produce truly inspired performances."
“Wayne Strongman is an authoritative and formidable force in new Canadian Opera.”
“Wayne’s insightful and wise dramaturgy was vital to the development of the libretto for Oksana G. His rigour and understanding of how to build economic yet emotional text into lyric, helped me realize the story to its fullest potential.”