Opera is a story told in music and there are many, many stories. Some of them are disturbing, controversial, open-ended and unresolved. All of these things should be present in art because art should make you think ...
Our art is the best of us after all ... It represents the very best enrichment humankind represents. We need as much of that as we can get.
A welcome figure on the podiums of Canada's most important orchestras and opera companies, Timothy Vernon is founding Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Victoria, Artistic Director of Opera Lyra Ottawa, and Conductor Laureate of Orchestra London.
As POV's founding Artistic Director, he has led most of its more than 100 productions since the company's inception in 1979.
These include the first staged Canadian presentations of Weber's Der Freischütz (1994), Montemezzi's L'Amore dei tre re (1996), Giannini's The Taming of the Shrew (2001), and Lee Hoiby's The Tempest (2004). In 2000, Mr. Vernon led his company in the world premiere of Erewhon by Louis Applebaum and Mavor Moore.
In 2007 Mr. Vernon conducted the Canadian première of Richard Strauss' Daphne, using his own reduction of Strauss' orchestration. This historic production was recorded for broadcast by CBC, as was POV's 2008 Canadian première of Marc Blitzstein's Regina, the 2009 company premiere of Handel's Semele, and the 2010 Canadian stage premiere of Strauss's Capriccio, which also used Mr. Vernon's orchestral reduction of the score.
Other broadcasts have included the 1988 production of Fidelio for TV by PBS and CBC, as well as a Knowledge Network documentary of POV's 1992 production of The Abduction from the Seraglio. CBC Radio has broadcast POV productions of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1993) and Lee Hoiby's The Tempest.
In November 2011, Mr. Vernon conducted the world première of Mary's Wedding, a new opera commissioned by Pacific Opera Victoria, with music by Andrew Paul MacDonald and libretto by Stephen Massicotte, from his award-winning play Mary's Wedding. This production was also recorded for national broadcast by CBC.
Mr. Vernon has recently led POV in other important premières, including the company's 100th production, Verdi's Falstaff in 2013, and, the following season, the first standalone production of Wagner's Das Rheingold ever performed in Canada.
As a result of Timothy Vernon's vision and his commitment to emerging Canadian artists, Pacific Opera Victoria has presented debut performances by such exceptional singers as Richard Margison, Paul Frey, Michael Schade, John Fanning, Barbara Livingston, Nathalie Paulin, and Julie Nesrallah, and showcased many more of Canada's finest opera singers. Many directors including Robert Carsen, Christopher Newton, and Glynis Leyshon made their mainstage Canadian operatic debuts with POV, and the company continues to provide exciting creative opportunites for directors, designers, singers, and production artists.
As artistic head of both Orchestra London and Pacific Opera Victoria, he fostered a partnership that resulted in a successful co-production of Puccini's Tosca in 2005 – London's first fully-staged professional opera. The two organizations subsequently joined forces again with co-productions of Rigoletto (2006), Don Giovanni (2007), Madama Butterfly (2008), and, in 2009, The Magic Flute.
As a guest conductor, Maestro Vernon has led productions of Die Zauberflöte and Faust for Ottawa's Opera Lyra, as well as The Turn of the Screw for l'Opéra de Montréal. In March 2006 he performed Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Glenn Gould School. He recently conducted Don Giovanni for Edmonton Opera and as Artistic Advisor to the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, he led several of their performances. He has conducted Madama Butterfly for Vermont's Green Mountain Festival, and Ariadne auf Naxos for Opera Nuova. Other recent engagements include Die Fledermaus (Opéra de Montréal), Rigoletto, La traviata, and Carmen (Calgary Opera), and Macbeth (a POV co-production with Opéra de Québec).
He has conducted for opera companies and orchestras in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Windsor, London, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton, and Halifax. Of special note was his 2000 performance with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, conducting Ben Heppner and Pinchas Zukerman in a gala concert seen on CBC and filmed for worldwide television distribution. Maestro Vernon has been associated with the Edmonton Symphony as conductor for the late summer 'Symphony Under the Sky' concerts and 'A Lighter Classical Christmas'.
Timothy Vernon grew up in Victoria. He studied conducting with Otto-Werner Mueller at the Victoria School (now Conservatory) of Music, then pursued further studies in Europe, graduating from the Vienna Academy of Music (now University for Music). Mr. Vernon returned to Canada in 1975, subsequently accepting posts as conductor and music director of the Regina Symphony Orchestra, music director of the COC's touring company, professor at McGill University, music director of the McGill Symphony Orchestra, and associate director of Opera McGill.
While at McGill, he led the McGill Symphony in a critically acclaimed performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 5, released in 1997 as a CD on the Fonovox label. Rick Phillips of Classical Music Magazine praised both orchestra and conducting, noting, "It's a real triumph. It has every right to share shelf space with the celebrated readings of Bernstein, Karajan, Tennstedt and other giants of Mahler interpretations".
Maestro Vernon also conducted the McGill Orchestra in acclaimed performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Roy Thomson Hall, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Le Grand Théâtre de Québec, and Montréal's Place des Arts. Broadcasts of Britten's War Requiem and Mahler's Symphony No. 9 were part of an ongoing association between the McGill Orchestra and CBC/Radio Canada brokered by Maestro Vernon during his professorship. The McGill Orchestra's recording of Korngold's Symphony in F#, recorded live in Carnegie Hall in 1990, was nominated for a Juno Award. The 1997 film McGill, Mahler, Montreal was broadcast nationally on Bravo and on CBC.
Always supportive of young musicians, Vernon served as artistic director of the Courtenay Youth Music Centre for seven of the 15 years he was on faculty with the program. Students from around the world came to B.C. to study with an international faculty, and to perform in orchestra, chamber music, opera, music theatre and jazz.
In February 2008, Mr. Vernon was presented with the Order of Canada, in recognition of his work in expanding professional opera in Canada and his commitment to young musicians. Timothy Vernon is also a recipient of Opera Canada's 2005 Ruby Award as Opera Builder and The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2013, Royal Roads University Royal Roads University awarded him an honorary degree In recognition of his strong leadership in and contributions to Canada's cultural scene. He continues to bring to Pacific Opera Victoria a unique vision that has engaged the community and made POV a nationally recognized symbol of artistic excellence.
June 29, 2015: Timothy Vernon will continue as Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Victoria while taking on new duties as Artistic Director of Opera Lyra Ottawa.
Community of sound Royal Roads News on Timothy Vernon's Honorary Degree:
His passion for art, performance and excellence transforms lessons from the past into messages for today. We are blessed to have him create a legacy for citizens of Victoria and beyond.
Allan Cahoon, Royal Roads President and Vice-chancellor.