Highlands Opera Studio (HOS) has released its 2024 season lineup with Mishaabooz’s Realm, a traditional Indigenous story created specifically for the local group, one of two featured operas – making its first appearance in Haliburton County in seven years.

HOS co-artistic director, Valerie Kuinka, said there’s lots for classical music enthusiasts to sink their teeth into this year. Celebrating their 18th season in the Highlands, HOS has 17 performances lined up for July and August.

Mishabooz’s Realm, written by Cree First Nation composer Andrew Balfour, will run for two nights Aug. 15 and 17 at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion.

“It was conceived as a sesquicentennial project… with the intention of building a reconciliatory work combining a sort of cultural interaction between western opera and traditional Indigenous storytelling,” Kuinka said. “It tells the story of creation, colonization and hope for the future.”

Given the continued findings of residential school burial grounds in recent years, coupled with what Kuinka says is a complete lack of societal attention to murdered and missing Indigenous women, she feels it’s important to bring this production back.

“There are lots of very serious issues we deal with, and we’ve had more talks about how to appropriately portray them in a short, but powerful work. It’s all about educating people and bringing these things to the front of people’s mind,” Kuinka said.

The Barber of Seville is the other feature presentation, with four performances Aug. 22 to 25, also at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion.

“It’s a hilarious opera… from Bugs Bunny cartoons to movie soundtracks, The Barber of Seville, by Rossini, is one of the most popular and recognizable Italian comic operas,” she said. “Join us for the hilarious antics as Figaro helps Almaviva outwit the doddering and conniving Bartolo for the hand of the beautiful Rosina. Fun for all ages.”

There are four concerts scheduled, featuring local HOS acts – ‘Opera to Broadway’ Aug. 1 at St. George’s Anglican Church; ‘Pop Goes the Opera’ Aug. 7 at St. George’s Anglican Church; ‘Celebrations’ Aug. 10 at Abbey Gardens Performance Tent; and ‘Homecoming’ Aug. 19 at St. George’s Anglican Church.

Kuinka is also excited to bring back four community pay-what-you-can events – giving everyone the chance to catch HOS in action. ‘Why Choose Opera’ is pencilled in for July 29 at Abbey Gardens Performance Tent; ‘Music on the Water’ Aug. 3, a beach opera on a lake to be decided in Haliburton County; ‘Casual Song Soiree’ Aug. 12 at St. George’s Anglican Church; and a surprise pop-up performance Aug. 16 at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion.

“I’m excited every year to bring this art form to Haliburton County. It’s a challenging time in the world… it seems today, there’s not much room for the arts. But music is fun. Bringing light and beauty into the world is our main purpose,” Kuinka said.

Tickets at highlandsoperastudio.com, or by calling 1-855455-5533 and using the code ‘Highlander24’.