Michael Bublé, Robert Lantos, Susan Aglukark win Governor General's Performing Arts Awards

Movie mogul Robert Lantos, opera star Ben Heppner, and singers Susan Aglukark and Michael Bublé are among the latest winners of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards.

4 of the 2016 laureates hail from Quebec

Michael Bublé (left), Robert Lantos (centre) and Susan Aglukark are among the 2016 recipients of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards, announced in Montreal on Thursday. (Canadian Press)

Movie mogul Robert Lantos, opera star Ben Heppner, and singers Susan Aglukark and Michael Bublé are among the latest winners of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards.

Organizers unveiled the 2016 recipients Thursday morning at the Phi Centre in Old Montreal.

"Canadians spend more than twice as much attending performing arts each year than they spend on all sports put together," noted Douglas Knight, chair of Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation.

The latest laureates for lifetime artistic achievement are:

  • filmmaker and producer Robert Lantos
  • tenor Ben Heppner
  • choreographer and dancer Marie Chouinard 
  • singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark 
  • playwright Suzanne Lebeau

Each lifetime achievement award-winner receives $25,000 and a special medallion struck by the Canadian Mint.

Though the distinction recognizes overall career achievement and he "has a fantasy of being on a beach someplace," Lantos said he hasn't been able to stop making movies. 

"I have been dreaming of doing just that for a long time. So far, I have not succeeded. I'm addicted to telling stories," he told CBC News, noting that he's working on an upcoming film based on Joseph Boyden's bestseller Through Black Spruce.

"I am attracted to stories that I believe, in my heart of hearts, matter and that deserve to be told and, hopefully, will be embraced by audiences," he noted. 

Many of his films draw inspiration from books, including In Praise of Older Women, The Sweet Hereafter, Being Julia, Felicia's Journey, Crash and Where the Truth Lies. 

But because he lives in Canada, "the authors I know personally tend to live here as well. I make movies based on Canadian novels because they are close to my life," said Lantos, who adapted his friend Mordecai Richler's Barney's Version and Joshua Then and Now for film, as well as Brian Moore's Black Robe and Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces. 

"Canadian stories are one of the few ties that bind us to who we are. They are what make us a nation, that bind us. Without our own stories, we might as well be Americans."

Singer Michael Bublé is the winner of the National Arts Centre Award, which also carries a prize of $25,000 and a medallion from the Mint.

Lawyer and philanthropist John D. McKellar is the latest winner of the Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism.

Actor and theatre director Albert Millaire is the winner for the prize's Mentorship Program and chose Benjamin Pradet as his protégé.

Lantos, Chouinard, Lebeau and Millaire are all from Quebec, while Heppner and Bublé are from British Columbia. Aglukark was born in Manitoba and raised in Nunavut, while McKellar is from Ontario.

Created in 1992 by former governor general Ramon John Hnatyshyn, the annual honour is Canada's highest distinction for excellence in the performing arts, including theatre, dance, classical music, popular music, film and broadcasting.

Drawn from nominations made by the public, the awards recognize artists, mentors and arts volunteers for their outstanding contribution to Canadian culture. 

The 2016 recipients will be celebrated at an Ottawa gala filled with performances and tributes, held at the National Arts Centre on June 11.

With files from Jeanette Kelly


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