Community of sound

Amy Dove

Timothy Vernon stirs conversation through sound.

As founding artistic director of Pacific Opera Victoria (POV), he has engaged emerging and established artists alike to raise the profile of opera in Canada. Underpinning his work is the desire to move people into conversation in a way they might not find elsewhere.

“Opera is a story told in music and there are many, many stories,” he says. “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.”

In recognition of his strong leadership in and contributions to Canada’s cultural scene, Royal Roads University is presenting him with an honorary degree June 19.

“His passion for art, performance and excellence transforms lessons from the past into messages for today,” says Allan Cahoon, Royal Roads president and vice-chancellor. “We are blessed to have him create a legacy for citizens of Victoria and beyond.”

Pacific Opera has brought more than 100 productions to Victoria since its inception in 1980.  The company looks to do things a little differently, making use of local talents to design and make the sets for almost all of its productions and supporting the cast through a completely local chorus. The result is a company that Victoria has taken ownership of, Vernon says. Community partnerships with the opera house band the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Belfry Theatre, Victoria Youth Choir and the Victoria Conservancy of Music, to name a few, have extended the organization’s reach.

Vernon’s ability to create dynamic creative partnerships has not gone unnoticed by others.

“From outside, POV works with what seem like huge limitations – a small stage, the frequent need for orchestral reductions, a relatively modest budget – but the results are dazzling,” says Elaine Calder, executive director of the Shaw Festival in Ontario. “Timothy makes great choices in his creative partners and his artists, and he's able to attract directors, designers and singers of the first rank. He also has a fine ear and eye for emerging talent and has done much to foster and develop the careers of many gifted Canadians.”

Vernon is aptly described as a builder, says Patrick Corrigan, POV executive director and Royal Roads MBA alumnus. From his work at POV, to helping emerging talent find a place on stage and ensuring Canadians, including himself, have a space to explore their personal contributions to great art, Vernon has established a culture at POV that is uniquely artist driven and responsive, Corrigan says.

“When he gets on that podium he is such a pure conduit for great artistry, for great works of art,” Corrigan says. “He is so present and yet he disappears, what is there is this great work.”

The result of all of Vernon’s effort is a unique approach to a traditional art. Performing to the high standards expected of them and keeping people’s interest is at the forefront of his plans for Pacific Opera.

“There are 400 years of creation in opera. It is our duty to find those great operas,” Vernon says. “I would like to continue to explore the unusual corners of the repertoire and continue to present brand new things that have a cutting edge.”

By doing so, Vernon hopes to keep the conversations going so that people can continue to be challenged by what they see and hear on stage.

“Our art is the best of us after all,” he says. “It represents the very best enrichment humankind represents. We need as much of that as we can get.”

Learn more about Timothy Vernon.


Honorary Degree nominations

The university is proud to welcome outstanding individuals into the Royal Roads community through the awarding of honorary degrees. Doctor of Laws, honoris causa recipients demonstrate a standard of excellence that inspires graduates and sets an example for positive change in the world.

Members of the public are invited to nominated individuals and full details about the process can be found here.