Ottawa performing arts unites the disciplines of music, drama and dance: a diverse community that is proud to call the National Capital Region home. Many world-class artists and performers offer performances for every kind of afficionado. Local and national organizations also give back to the community, investing in promising youth with workshops, school events, scholarships and masterclasses given throughout the year. Some of the organizations below are non-profit organizations and rely on subscriptions, private donations, and government funding to operate.
Ottawa’s Performing Arts Centre is known as the NAC, or the National Arts Centre. Central to the Ottawa performing arts community, the NAC started in 1969 and was created as a Centennial project by the Federal Government. The NAC covers the fields of classical music, English theatre, French theatre, dance, variety shows and community programmes. The National Arts Centre is located at 53 Elgin Street, at Confederation Square. In 1997, the NAC installed over 130 pieces of Canadian contemporary art into their collection which includes murals, sculptures and paintings.
Centrepointe Theatre is located at 101 Centrepointe Drive in the west-end of Ottawa, about 20 minutes from Parliament Hill. The theatre showcases artists and cultures from Canada and all over the world. The choice of entertainment is extremely diverse: music concerts, dramas, musicals, comedy acts and dance performances among others. The theatre seats 954 and is home to several performing arts companies.
Shenkman Arts Centre
Shenkman Arts Centre is located at 245 Centrum Boulevard in Ottawa’s east end of town. This art facility specializes in visual, performing, literary and media arts and offers bilingual services and programmes that are run by a staff of volunteers and the City of Ottawa. The centre provides two performance halls: Harold Shenkman Hall, which has a capacity of 500 patrons, and Richcraft Theatre, which seats 150. The Shenkman Arts Centre also offers music and dance rehearsal spaces, visual media exhibition spaces, and reception areas for rent. Visit www.shenkmanarts.ca or call 613.580.ARTS (2787) for more details about upcoming shows, concerts, and workshops.
OTTAWA MUSIC SCENE
Everyday at 10 a.m. from June 27th until August 25th, the distinctive scarlet uniform and bearskin headdress is seen on Parliament Hill as the Band of the Ceremonial Guard provides the music for the Changing of the Guard ceremony. You can also see the band during official functions at Rideau Hall, embassies and other places around Ottawa. In addition to the Changing of the Guard ceremony, the Band of the Ceremonial Guard also performs in Fortissimo, (their annual military and musical performance at Parliament Hill.)
National Arts Centre Orchestra
The National Arts Centre Orchestra has been the resident orchestra of the NAC since 1969. They are known throughout the world and have toured both nationally and internationally. The NACO has 40 recordings to its credit; 6 under the latest conductor, Pinchas Zukerman. The NAC Orchestra is well-loved in the Ottawa performing arts community and gives over 100 performances every year. Besides commissioning Canadian works, they further music education by offering masterclasses, working with local schools as well as youth orchestras, community orchestras and student matinees. Pinchas Zukerman also started the NAC Young Artists Programme, part of the NAC Summer Music Institute (SMI) which offers Conducting and Composing as separate programmes. Recently, he also launched the NAC Institute for Orchestral Studies to prepare talented musicians for orchestra careers.
Ottawa Symphony Orchestra
The Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (OSO) is known for its repertoire of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Under the direction of David Currie, the local area orchestral musicians perform music from the large symphonic repertoire. Their programmes often include soloists with Ottawa connections. The OSO supports the Ottawa performing arts community with its close connection with Ottawa University: most of the members are on the faculty of the School of Music and the OSO also contains many former and current U of O music students.
OTTAWA THEATRE & OPERA COMPANIES
The GCTC is an independent professional theatre company that began 37 years ago. Their theatre is located at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre at 1233 Wellington Street W. This arts organization produces new Canadian work and promotes artist development. They commission and workshop new plays by new and established playwrights.
Opera Lyra Ottawa
Ottawa performing arts would not be complete without this gem of an opera company. Opera Lyra Ottawa (OLO) was founded in 1984 and has a reputation for its mainstage productions. Opera Lyra stages two performances (either opera concerts or staged operas) per year. Like many arts organizations in Ottawa, Opera Lyra is committed to community work–they founded the OLO Opera Studio Program which is a training program for up and coming Canadian opera professionals. Opera Lyra Ottawa was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the Arts in 2002.
Ottawa Little Theatre
The Ottawa Little Theatre has the distinction of being part of the Ottawa arts community for almost 100 years. The theatre entertains 50,000-60,000 patrons each season. The theatre has 462 seats and provides a variety of popular plays that are traditional in tone. The theatre is located on 400 King Edward Avenue and boasts its’ own resident ghost! (Read about the Story of Martha on their website: www.ottawalitletheatree.com).
If you are looking for a little variety in the Ottawa performing arts scene, here’s a little gem you may not be aware of! The Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre was founded by John Nolan and Kathy MacLellan and they are based in Ottawa. Since 1978, they have been performing puppet theatre similar in style to “Bunraku” theatre which uses visible puppeteers. This year, they are offering a special Sunday afternoon series at Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans. Click here to read their Faces of Ottawa interview with inside-guide-to-ottawa.com!
OTTAWA VARIETY PERFORMANCES
The Yuk Yuk’s Stand-up Comedy chain has is located at
- 292 Elgin Street (seats 150)
Shows run for approximately 105 minutes and they prefer reservations. The shows are not censored, so keep in mind that there is adult content and language in their shows. 16 to 18 year olds can attend if they are accompanied by an adult. Dress code is casual elegant and they offer great dinner & show packages.
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