Did you know there’s a pink-coloured lake in Canada, or that we have the only pink-coloured freshwater lake in the world? In the forests of British Columbia, on the eastern side of Thunder Mountain, near Bella Coola and the Nuxalk nation, sits Dusty Rose Lake. This pink-coloured lake is on the side of a mountain-top, 2000 metres above sea level, in remote wilderness, reachable only by foot.
As opposed to other pink lakes in the world whose colour is derived from salt or algae, Dusty Rose Lake’s pink colour is caused by the particulate in the glacial melt waters feeding it. The surrounding rock is purple/pink in colour; the water feeding the lake is said to have a lavender hue. Thunder Mountain is aptly named after the thunderous sounds naturally emanating from the Tzeetsaytsul glacier, sitting on the back side of its peaks. Accounts from hikers remark on the “thunderous sound” while on the mountain, which is the glacier moving.
This remarkable natural wonder is completely unknown to most Canadians, however, it is well known to Bella Coola locals and the Nuxalk nation. Loose Tea is excited to explore the stories of the land pertaining to this geographical marvel. Loose Tea is in the initial stages of the creative process to collect a body of research to inform the creation of a new Canadian opera.
Loose Tea’s mission is to tell compelling Canadian stories by collaborating with artists from a variety of disciplines to express a fully integrated narrative. Upon learning about this lake and the surrounding region, it felt like a natural fit to research stories pertaining to this wonder, and bring them to life.
Wagner referred to opera as “Gesamtkunstwerk”, or a “synthesis of the arts” because it brings so many disciplines together in performance. Loose Tea continues this operatic tradition in engaging further with current disciplines of film, sound design(electronic), dance, and contemporary Canadian storytelling.
Loose Tea has recently produced several multidisciplinary pieces. These productions have integrated contemporary opera with electronic music, unconventional sound design, art film, and dance. Opera composers are using techniques developed by DJ sound artists by recording samples directly from original sources, and incorporating them into the musical score. Capturing the thunderous glacial sounds, the babbling lake streams, and wind in the trees will create an authentic Canadian soundscape within this opera.
In working with dancer and choreographer Jen Nichols, Loose Tea has found a collaborator with a mutual need to discover the physical characterizations of the stories of this landscape. Jen’s work in film as a choreographer and director, and her involvement in a wide range of classical music productions provides a unique perspective and bridge between dance, film, and opera. Film will be an important aspect of this piece, to accurately immerse the audience and the story in the monumental enormity of the Canadian Rockies. Film art will be used to provide a visual narrative of the landscape which integrates into the overall story, in a way that can only be told through the cinematic art form.
Loose Tea is searching for a story of the land. This research includes the Indigenous folklore, stories from local Norwegian settlers, and current inhabitants of the area. Inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation commission, and Canada 150, Loose Tea is particularly interested in the verbal traditional Indigenous stories that might surround Dusty Rose Lake. Being sensitive to the culture, and to avoid mistakes of appropriation, Loose Tea has partnered with Indigenous opera singer Marion Newman for guidance.
Marion was born in Bella Coola and is a Kwagiulth and Stó:lo First Nations. She is highly sought out for new classical works engaging in Indigenous content, and provides feedback based on principals of responsibility to guide the creative process.
In its fifth year of production, Loose Tea as an organization has developed the internal infrastructure to allow the feasibility of the long term development of a project at this scale: development will likely take at least three years from conception to production. This project ties into Loose Tea’s mandate to engage in culturally relevant Canadian stories, at a time when stories of the land have gained increased priority in the national conscience.
The artistic outcome of this research will produce a full length new opera about a story of the land that has been inspired by the sonic and visually stunning landscape of Dusty Rose Lake.