The opera, The Llandovery Castle, to premiere in Toronto, bears the name of the hospital ship infamously destroyed by a German U-boat in the North Atlantic.
It focusses on the 14 nurses from eight Canadian provinces* who served in harrowing circumstances throughout the war, their care and compassion contrasting with the chaos and violence surrounding them. Of the 258 people on board, only 24 men survived to tell the women’s story.
The sinking of the ship and subsequent murder of many of those in lifeboats sparked outrage in Canada and internationally, and the incident was one of six British cases presented at the war crimes trials post-WWI in Leipzig, Germany.
With music by Stephanie Martin and libretto by Paul Ciufo, the opera spotlights in particular the lives of Minnie “Kate” Gallaher and Rena “Bird” McLean, the latter traumatized by earlier battlefield-area nursing, and her quest on the hospital ship to prove herself ready to return to the Front.