Queen of Puddings Music Theatre

Toronto’s Queen of Puddings Music Theatre produced original Canadian chamber opera with a performer-based, physical theatre aesthetic. It was founded in 1995 by co-artistic directors Dáirine Ní Mheadhra and John Hess. They cited Cirque du Soleil as a muse for the company’s distinct aesthetic and approach to intercultural opera. In 2012, Ní Mheadhra won a $50,000 Molson Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts for her work with the company. It ceased operations in 2013.

Toronto’s Queen of Puddings Music Theatre produced original Canadian chamber opera with a performer-based, physical theatre aesthetic. It was founded in 1995 by co-artistic directors Dáirine Ní Mheadhra and John Hess. They cited Cirque du Soleil as a muse for the company’s distinct aesthetic and approach to intercultural opera. In 2012, Ní Mheadhra won a $50,000 Molson Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts for her work with the company. It ceased operations in 2013.


The company (which is named after a dessert) made its debut with Mad For All Reasons (1996), featuring Canadian composer Marie Pelletier. It was followed by elemental (1997), which incorporated works by Sean Ferguson, György Kurtág, Karin Rehnqvist, Wolfgang Rihm and Robert Zuidam.

Queen of Puddings then began to specialize in Canadian creations through the production of such original works as Beatrice Chancy (1998–9, music by James Rolfe and libretto by George Elliott Clarke); Sirens (2000, vocal works by Canadians Michael Oesterle, Pelletier, Juhan Puhm, Rolfe, Doug Schmidt, and Ana Sokolovic); Echoes (2001, works by Puhm, Harry Somers, and the Europeans Veljo Tormis and Manfred Trojahn); Kabarett (2002, works by Christopher Butterfield, Omar Daniel, Harry Freedman, Melissa Hui, Oesterle and Juliet Palmer); Charlotte (2003 workshop, music by Rolfe, libretto by Jeremy Podeswa); and The Midnight Court (premiered 11 Jun 2005; music by Ana Sokolovic and libretto by Paul Bentley). Love Songs (by Sokolovic) premiered 25 March 2008 at Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto.

Ní Mheadhra and Hess created a signature Queen of Puddings vocabulary of movement and vocal production. The company also ran a multidisciplinary summer institute for classical singers. It employed such artists as Marie-Josée Chartier, Tom Diamond and Martin Katz.


In 2001, a CBC broadcast of the Queen of Puddings production of Beatrice Chancy was voted one of the best shows of 1999 by Toronto Life magazine. Beatrice Chancy also launched the careers of soprano Measha Brueggergosman and baritone Gregory Dahl. The company toured The Midnight Court to Covent Garden, London, premiering 29 June 2006.

Featured Canadian performers with the company have included tenor John Kriter; baritones Marcus Nance and Nigel Smith; mezzo-sopranos Catherine Carew, Lori Klassen, Mireille Lebel and Laura Pudwell; and sopranos Hannah Shelton, Krisztina Szabó and Monica Whicher. From 1996 to 2006, Puddings productions were directed by Michael Cavanagh, Alisa Palmer and Jennifer Tarver.

See also Opera Performance; Opera Composition; Musical Theatre.


Further Reading

  • Kareda, Urjo. "The little company that could," Toronto Life, Dec 1999

    Citron, Paula. "Opera outside the box," Opera Canada, Summer 2003

    Perlman, David. "What's cooking - The Queen of Puddings," WholeNote, 1 Apr - 7 May 2005