Nigredo Hotel is one of the most successful Canadian operas ever. A chamber opera for a soprano and a baritone, it marked Nic Gotham's debut as an opera composer with a libretto by Ann-Marie MacDonald.
A Hitchcock style thriller for baritone and soprano, Nigredo Hotel is a journey into the subconscious. A stressed-out neurosurgeon is tormented by the owner of a sleazy hotel. In Room 7, Raymond is forced to confront the dark recesses of his mind. He is rewarded by the arrival of glorious Wisdom.
“Blazingly visual…an extraordinary work…beautifully performed.” The Scotsman, Glasgow
The opera premiered as a co-production of Tapestry New Opera Works at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto in 1992, which was highly unusual — theatres did not usually present opera, and opera never ran for four weeks, seven days week. Our show was nominated for Dora Mavor Moore Awards in eight categories, except for — you guessed it — Directing.
The lighting designer Paul Mathiesen and soloist Shari Saunders deservedly won Dora awards.
Our production toured the United Kingdom (1993) and across Canada (1995) for a total of close to 100 performances. I directed a repeat production in Toronto for Tapestry New Opera Works as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations in 2005, with a new cast.
I wrote the following introduction for the printed libretto:
Nic was a leader in the Toronto jazz scene when he was suddenly gripped by the desire to write an opera. One day, Nic burst through the door, elated. He’d found the perfect material in a second-hand bookstore and beckoned with a slim volume in his hand. I took one look at the cover and burst into laughter. The title was Encounter with the Self: A Jungian Commentary on William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job. “Where’s the drama in that?” I scoffed. Nic knew where it was: in Nigredo Hotel, in the light born from darkness. Over the many years of our marriage and collaborations, I came to treasure Nic’s deeply philosophical nature. He took his optimism very seriously. It permeates his music, even the compositions he wrote so furiously in his very last weeks. Many waters cannot quench love.
In When Words Sing, editor Julie Salverson (2021)
I also directed the radio version of Nigredo Hotel for CBC Radio, Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.
More information regarding the late Nic Gotham is available here.
More information regarding the production is at the Tarragon website.