• Director's Note: APORTIA CHRYPTYCH

    By COC Staff

    Opening Friday, June 14 at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre, Aportia Chryptych: A Black Opera for Portia White is a bold, new Black opera that sets out to reclaim the story of Portia White,  the first Black Canadian concert performer to achieve international fame in the mid-20th century. 

    In this article, hear from the show's Director and Librettist, HAUI, as he explores the show's creation ahead of opening night!


    In the creation of Aportia Chryptych: A Black Opera for Portia White, our intention is to delve into the enigmatic presence of Portia White, a figure whose legacy has been shrouded in mystery and whose full expression of body and voice was denied by societal, gender, and racial constraints. Portia, known for her remarkable voice, was relegated to the status of a concert singer, with no record of her performing in opera—a glaring omission in the annals of musical history. 

    At the heart of this opera lies an exploration of the concept of "firsts"—particularly the burden placed upon people of colour in predominantly white spaces to embody pioneering roles. While there is an innate spotlight in being “first,” there can ultimately be forms of erasure. Portia White was not the first singer to break racial barriers, nor will she be the last, as long as we continue to normalize whiteness as the default standard of success. We acknowledge the precedent set by Elizabeth Greenfield, "The Black Swan," who performed a century earlier before Queen Victoria, challenging the notion that meeting royalty constitutes the pinnacle of success. 

    Success, we posit, should not be measured solely by accolades, recognition, or societal achievements, but rather by the lasting impact one leaves on the world and the contributions made to uplift others. It is within this framework that we seek to give back to Portia what was unjustly denied to her—a platform to sing in her fullest expression and to reshape the narrative around her to reflect “herstory,” rather than the Eurocentric ideals that have historically dominated operatic traditions, stories, and practices. 

    Portia White is not merely a historical figure to be examined; she is represented through the trinity of body, soul, and spirit—a divine feminine archetype that transcends time and space. Through these lenses, we aim to showcase different facets of her identity, both public and private, with each complementing the others and contributing to a holistic portrayal of her essence. Drawing inspiration from West African performance traditions, which incorporate elements of mime, chanting, dance, and mask, we seek to infuse the opera with a rich cultural tapestry that celebrates Portia's heritage and resilience. 

    Central to the narrative is the exploration of life and death, themes that are universal yet ironically shrouded in ambiguity. Portia's journey through the spirit realm serves as a celebration of her life, a rite of passage where she navigates the complexities of existence and transcends earthly constraints. The Bardo, coined as “the door before the diaspora” (Dionne Brand) symbolizes the liminal space between life and death—a realm we will all ultimately traverse. 

    In creating this opera, we have endeavored to cultivate a safe space for the exploration of dangerous ideas—ideas that challenge the status quo and interrogate the structures of power and privilege that shape our world. As a mixed-race Black male who is sometimes perceived as white, there is great poignancy to being gifted to share the story of a Black woman named White. Those layers cannot go unnoticed. This is my love letter to Black women, to Black resilience, and to Black joy—a testament to the enduring spirit of those who defy expectations and carve out their own paths in a world that often seeks to silence them. 

    Aportia Chryptych: A Black Opera for Portia White is not merely a performance; it is a journey of discovery, celebration, and remembrance and atonement. Through music, dance, and storytelling, we invite our audience to join us on this transformative odyssey as we honour the legacy of a woman whose voice echoes through the corridors of history, demanding to be heard. 

    Aportia Chryptych: A Black Opera for Portia White runs from June 14 to 16, 2024 at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre.
    Posted in 23/24 Season


Phone: 416-363-8231

Toll Free: 1-800-250-4653

Contact Page

Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube