Nova Scotia

Alexander Graham Bell and wife Mabel featured in new music drama

A new production about Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel will take flight this summer. Auditions for The Bells of Baddeck took place this week in Cape Breton.

Soprano Lorna MacDonald wrote piece; says she's long been intrigued by story of Bells

A new music drama production about Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel will be performed next summer. (Courtesy Parks Canada)

A new production about inventor Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel will take flight this summer. 

Auditions for The Bells of Baddeck were held this week in Cape Breton; the show will run from July 3 to August 2, 2015, at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck

The music drama is written by soprano Lorna MacDonald, a music professor at the University of Toronto who grew up in Port Morien and sticks close to her Cape Breton roots.

She says she’s always been intrigued by the story of the Bells.  

“Quite a few years ago I had the idea that there’s a story here beyond what we know about the telephone and the Silver Dart," she said. "And a big story in Mabel, who was really an incredible woman, an amazing advocate for women and children, very much Graham Bell’s equal partner.”

MacDonald approached the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic site in 2012 with the idea and received immediate approval.

“And I thought, 'Oh, they’re interested, it’s a museum that’s thinking outside the box, outside the walls,'” MacDonald says.

She won a grant through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to help mount the production. There will 19 shows throughout July.

MacDonald says that what started as an idea for a one-woman show has grown into a production with a cast of 20.

She’s calling it a music drama because it’s not exactly a musical and it’s not an opera. There’s spoken dialogue and new music by Canadian composer Dean Burry. There will also be traditional Scottish songs, Cape Breton fiddling and dancing, Gaelic chants and choral arrangements.

“Graham Bell was just such an open thinker, as was Mabel, that I think in fact the variety of musical styles completely represents them,” MacDonald says.

MacDonald says she’ll be reviewing recordings of the auditions and hopes to include as many Cape Breton performers as possible, though she will also bring in some cast members for the performance.  

“There’s so much talent here and local Cape Breton talent plays a very large part of this.”