Aportia Chryptych: groundbreaking opera reclaims legacy of Black Canadian icon

Portia White, a distinguished contralto from Nova Scotia, shattered barriers as the first Black Canadian concert performer to gain global recognition during the mid-20th century. Despite her remarkable achievements, her narrative has regrettably faded from the collective memory of Canadians. However, a beacon of light emerges with “Aportia Chryptych: A Black Opera for Portia White,” a groundbreaking production by Canadian director and librettist HAUI, alongside composer Sean Mayes based in Toronto and New York. This innovative opera boldly endeavors to reclaim Portia White’s rightful place in history.

The singers – L-R soprano Neema Bickersteth, soprano Adrienne Danrich, and contralto SATE

The world premiere of this remarkable work is scheduled for June 14, 15, and 16, 2024, at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre, located at 227 Front St. E. Following each performance, attendees will have the opportunity to engage in a special Q&A session with the creators of the opera. To honor the memory and legacy of Portia White, audiences on opening night are encouraged to attire themselves in white, paying homage to this distinguished Canadian artist.

HAUI expresses a poignant sentiment, remarking, “What poetic justice it is to share Portia’s narrative through an art form that once overlooked her. To have this presentation endorsed by Canada’s largest opera company is truly emblematic of justice!” As an award-winning multidisciplinary artist, HAUI has consistently merged various mediums such as theatre, dance, film, and visual arts to advocate for social justice, particularly exploring themes of race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Emphasizing the essence of the opera, HAUI elucidates, “It’s crucial for audiences to understand that this opera isn’t a mere biographical retelling. The narrative unfolds at the culmination of Portia’s life, where she transitions into the spirit realm, fragmented into her physical form, soul, and spirit. It’s a poignant exploration of the transitional phase, as Portia grapples with releasing her earthly ties in pursuit of spiritual ascension.”

Reflecting on the creative process behind Aportia Chryptych, Sean Mayes emphasizes the team’s endeavor to dismantle musical barriers and foster cohesion among diverse artistic and cultural communities. “The sonic landscape we aimed to create is incredibly eclectic,” explains Mayes. “Audiences will encounter a fusion of spoken word, rap, hip-hop, and R&B, seamlessly interwoven with elements traditionally associated with opera. It’s a convergence of seemingly disparate worlds, coalescing at the intersection of artistic expression.”

Single tickets for Aportia Chryptych: A Black Opera for Portia White are $75. Tickets can be purchased online at coc.ca or by calling the Canadian Opera Company Box Office at 416-363-8231. For more information, please visit coc.ca.