Our History

In 1939, with Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas growing an international following since their deaths, a group of Montreal West citizens decided that their town should have its own amateur theatrical company dedicated to the performance of these sparklingly witty works, and our Society was born. The founders, including the then mayor of Montreal West James R. Pearson, invited New Zealand born Harry and Doris Norris to serve as the fledgling society’s first musical director and stage director, respectively. This was an auspicious beginning, as both were veterans of the famed D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, the original, English company of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas: Harry was a former conductor, and Doris had performed onstage as a member of the chorus. The Norris’s approach was to recreate the production style of the D’Oyly Carte company not only in terms of staging and music, but through set and costume design as well.

Their first production, “The Pirates of Penzance” took place in the spring of 1940 and annual productions, encompassing all the operettas with the exception of two, “The Grand Duke” and “Thespis”, have entertained Montrealers and audiences from many surrounding municipalities ever since. Offstage events include singing Christmas Carols in the streets of Montreal West as well as other concerts and tours.

The inaugural production, The Pirates of Penzance, was presented in the spring of 1940. Since then, in an unbroken string of annual performances, the Society has produced all but two of Gilbert and Sullivan’s fourteen operettas; these two exceptions are Thespis, which cannot be produced in its original version as the only surviving musical score was destroyed in a London fire many years ago; and The Grand Duke, the last (and least popular) Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration, which is rarely performed today.

In 1997, another milestone was added to the Society’s history books when we became the first Canadian group to perform at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, Philadelphia, with our production of Utopia Limited, giving us the opportunity to compete against some of the best Gilbert and Sullivan troupes in the world. We were thrilled when our principal, Anita Hayes won their award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of The Lady Sophy.

The Society changed direction in 2012 by broadening its base and diversifying into a hitherto unchartered course – producing a non-G&S, bilingual show.  In response to the bilingual nature of the Montreal Community, MWOS stepped into the bilingual breach.  To fulfil this new role, a work by someone other than Gilbert and Sullivan, Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers/ Orpheus in the Underworld was chosen.  This production was a critical success garnering such epitaphs as …”with knockout voices” by reknown theatre critic, Pat Donnelly. The Society’s new goal is to fill this vacant niche by producing a bilingual show every two or three years.

In the summer of 2014, MWOS convened a General Meeting to adopt a proposal to alter its name from the Montreal West Operatic Society to The Montreal West-End Operatic Society – thus broadening our name, as well as our horizons.  A simple three letters changed the Society from a single community-based organization to a multi-community oriented troupe.  Our new name encompasses the whole of the west end of Montreal.  Such communities as Cote St. Luc, N.D.G., and Westmount – all loyal supporters of the Society – are included in the name.

In an effort to meet the desires of our audience as well as our cast, MWOS expanded its mandate to produce not only Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and bilingual works of their contemporaries, but also to include other genres within the musical theatre group such as opera and musicals.

MWOS 75 Years and counting…

1940’s  1st – 10th Productions
1940 The Pirates of Penzance
1941 Iolanthe
1942 The Yeomen of the Guard
1943 HMS Pinafore
1944 Patience
1945 The Mikado
1946 The Gondoliers
1947 Princess Ida
1948 The Pirates of Penzance
1949 HMS Pinafore
 
1960’s  21st – 30th Productions
1960 The Yeomen of the Guard
1961 Ruddigore
1962 The Mikado
1963 HMS Pinafore/Trial by Jury
1964 The Pirates of Penzance
1965 Patience
1966 The Gondoliers
1967 Iolanthe
1968 The Mikado
1969 The Yeomen of the Guard
 
1980’s  41st – 50th Productions
1980 The Gondoliers
1981 Patience
1982 Princess Ida
1983  Ruddigore
1984 The Sorcerer
1985 The Pirates of Penzance
1986 The Mikado
1987 Iolanthe
1988 The Yeomen of the Guard
1989 The Gondoliers
 
2000’s  61st – 70th Productions
2000 Patience
2001 The Sorcerer
2002 The Pirates of Penzance
2003 The Mikado
2004 Iolanthe
2005 Ruddigore
2006 The Gondoliers
2007 The Yeomen of the Guard
2008 HMS Pinafore
2009 Princess Ida
1950’s  11th – 20th Productions
1950 The Mikado
1951 Ruddigore
1952 The Gondoliers
1953 Iolanthe
1954 The Yeomen of the Guard
1955 The Mikado
1956 Patience
1957 The Pirates of Penzance
1958 Princess Ida
1959 The Gondoliers
 
1970’s  31st – 40th Productions
1970 Princess Ida
1971 Ruddigore
1972 HMS Pinafore
1973 The Gondoliers
1974 The Mikado
1975 Cox and Box/The Sorcerer
1976 The Pirates of Penzance
1977 Iolanthe
1978 The Yeomen of the Guard
1979 HMS Pinafore
 
1990’s  51st – 60th Productions
1990 HMS Pinafore
1991 Patience
1992 The Pirates of Penzance
1993  Ruddigore / Trial by Jury
1994 The Mikado/The World of Gilbert & Sullivan
1995 Iolanthe / Oper(ett)a
1996 The Yeomen of the Guard
1997 Utopia Limited
1998 The Gondoliers / Trials of Gilbert & Sullivan
1999 HMS Pinafore
 
2010’s  71st – 76th Productions
2010 The ‘Bollywood’ Mikado
2011 Trial by Jury/The Best of G & S
2012 A Gilbert & Sullivan Soirée/Orphée-Orpheus (J. Offenbach)
2013  The Pirates of Penzance
2014 Give Three Cheers / Patience
2015 A Diamond Jubilee Concert/La Chauve-Souris (J. Strauss II)
2016 A Gilbert & Sullivan Christmas Carol (Gayden Wren)/The Gondoliers