Nancy Jane Hermiston


Research Interests

opera, voice, theatre, interdisciplinary work with a diversity of fields and opera
Opera training and its effect on sculpting the brain - Wall Opera Project, Hermiston/L/Boyd/J Werker

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

Research Methodology

Interdisciplinary research with linguistics and brain research - opera/music and the brain -shared research projects Dr. Lara Boyd/Dr. Janet Werker
use of equipment and methodologies in collaboration with research partners.


Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows
Any time / year round

Wall Opera Project - Does Opera Training sculpt the brain. Does the study of opera performance change the brain function for students with learning disabilities ? Does it have positive effects for all students studying opera. If there are positive effects to be found how could this help people who have other brain disfunctions or have succombed to diseases or stokes affecting the brain?

neurological/brain research scientists, opera singer or person passionate about opera and music in general, reading music and fluency in languages is an asset, team player, sensitive, caring person.

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.
I am open to hosting Visiting International Research Students (non-degree, up to 12 months).
I am interested in hiring Co-op students for research placements.

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These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a potential thesis supervisor.

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Chunhyang-ga as pansori-style opera: a guide for performing pansori with classically-trained singers outside of Korea (2019)

My love of Korean traditional vocal music stemmed from my two years of living and working near Seoul as an English teacher. Upon returning to Canada, I entered a Masters program in music which required the performance of a recital. Choosing a Korean art song cycle for this recital sparked my research into other Korean vocal art forms. From this, I discovered changgeuk, which is commonly referred to as “Korean Traditional Opera,” and subsequently pansori, a traditional form of Korean sung storytelling on which changgeuk is based. A continued curiosity in these two traditional art forms during my UBC doctoral studies inspired me to question whether there was an in-road for classically-trained singers in North America to perform them, and led to this creative-interpretive thesis project. The purpose of this thesis, which includes a dissertation and performance project, is to provide an example of a possible guide and template for individuals or institutions interested in presenting an opera production of pansori material. It provides an overview of pansori's theory, historical background, and repertoire; the basics and history of changgeuk; details of the production process for my Lecture-Recital performance (singing Korean, transcribing a vocal score, arranging full scores, directing the drama, and presenting suitable visual aspects); and a distilling of the successes and challenges of this project into suggestions on how future productions of pansori-style opera may bepresented effectively. A great deal of the experience I gained from this project involved navigating the adaptations necessary for performing this traditional Korean source material with the resources available to me in a non-Korean location. I plan to expand this thesis project into a full opera production and hope that my efforts may encourage others to experiment with similar hybrids using traditional musical-theatrical material.Ultimately, the goal is to establish such cross-cultural experiments as a more frequent source for opera productions, increasing exposure and interest in the traditions on which they are based. Supplementary material available at:

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A Canadian opera aria anthology for soprano (2017)

A problem that Canadian opera faces is that once works are premiered, they rarely receive any further performances. Singers must overcome numerous barriers to sing these works due to limited score accessibility and lack of aria adaptations and recordings. Even if singers feel passionately about Canadian opera, such obstacles may impede their motivation to perform Canadian repertoire.This thesis aims to increase the awareness and accessibility of Canadian opera through the creation of a “Canadian Opera Aria Anthology for Soprano.” The anthology includes background information about the operas, composer and librettist biographies, opera synopses, and aria adaptations. In addition, performance and interpretive guides have been formed from the author’s own research in performing these works, available recordings, and from information gathered from the author’s interviews with the composers and librettists.Hopefully the arias within this anthology will not only provide singers with useful arias for auditions, but also give them and their audience a lens through which they may better understand Canadian opera and culture. Ultimately, this research aims to increase the recognition of Canadian opera and to develop a greater interest and appreciation for these works so that one day, they may become a part of the standard operatic repertoire and reach both Canadian and international stages.

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African and Western Aspects of Ballanta's Opera "Afiwa" (2016)

Nicholas George Julius Ballanta (1893-1962) was a Sierra Leonean composer, ethnomusicologist and scholar. Trained in Western art and church music both in his home country and in the United States, he also conducted many years’ research into tribal music in Africa, and indeed was a pioneer in the study of West African music. His most complete opera is “Afiwa,” which sets the story of a girl who stands up to her father, the king of the Anlo Ewe tribe in Ghana, for atrocities he had committed at her birth. This study identifies what is uniquely African yet also Western about Ballanta’s “Afiwa”. In chapter 1, an introduction to the work is presented, including Ballanta’s biography. In Chapter 2, I determine what Ballanta believed to be characteristic of the African music he studied by examining his writings about rhythm, melody, form, texture and harmony. In Chapter 3, I cite numerous passages from “Afiwa” where these characteristics are found. My conclusion is that Ballanta combined both African and Western musical aspects in this opera. Chapter 4 goes beyond the music to explain, referencing the 2010 Cottey College production, aspects of the libretto, plot and staging that will help any future producers to understand the opera better so as to provide as authentic a production as possible.

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Creative Differences: Sendak's and Knussen's Intended Audiences of Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! (2015)

Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak and composer Oliver Knussen collaborated on two one-act operas based on Sendak’s picture books Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. Though they are often programmed as children’s operas, Sendak and Knussen labeled the works fantasy operas, but have provided little commentary on any distinction between these labels. Through examination of their notes and commentary on the operas, published reviews and analysis of the operas, e-mail interviews conducted with operatic administrators and composers of children’s operas, and my analysis of the two works I intend to show that Sendak and Knussen had different target audiences in mind as they created these works.

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Stylistic Fusion in the Cabaret Songs of Benjamin Britten and WH Auden: A Performer's Analysis (2010)

The Cabaret Songs of W.H. Auden and Benjamin Britten merge characteristics of a multitude of styles. The purpose of this document is to investigate the fusion of styles making up the Cabaret Songs and to analyze them from a performer’s perspective with the goal of providing collaborative partnerships with an historical and musical foundation on which to build their interpretation of the Cabaret Songs and thereby serve as a basis for informed performance decisions.Chapter 1 includes biographical information for both Benjamin Britten and W.H. Auden focusing on how the two artists met and discusses their working relationship during the seven years in which they collaborated. Also included is a short section of relevant biographical information on the singer/actress Hedli Anderson for whom the Cabaret Songs were created. Chapter 2 includes a brief overview of the history of the European cabaret-artistique and examines the creation and development of this art form. Examples of cabaret songs from other composers, namely Erik Satie, Kurt Weill, Friedrich Hollaender, and Noel Coward are given to show the musical soil of the era, from which the Britten and Auden pieces sprouted. Chapter 3 discusses the Cabaret Songs on a song-by-song basis and provides a musical analysis from a performer’s perspective, outlining the different musical influences in each song and investigating the cross-pollination of musical styles. The songs will be examined for characteristics of traditional European art song, operatic elements, American popular song elements, European dance rhythms and elements of original European cabaret.

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The roles of "mothers" in opera as exemplified by Fides (Meyerbeer’s Le Prophete); Kostelnicka (Janacek’s Jenufa); Mrs. Patrick de Rocher (Heggie’s Dead Man Walking) (2009)

Mothers in operatic plots are mostly absent; when present, they are generally sung by a mezzo-soprano and are considered “supporting” roles. This dissertation attempts to elucidate what led to the scarcity of mothers as important characters in opera, and to the apparent stereotyping of the role with the mezzo-soprano voice type. Chapter 1 introduces the topic, while chapter 2 explores the aesthetics of the singing voice throughout various periods during which the “preferred vocal ideal” changed, as vocal ranges were equated with the personification and stereotyping of certain character types. Influences which affected the evolution of plot paradigms are also investigated. A summary of opera libretti from the seventeenth to the twentieth century supports historical evidence drawn from the above context and identifies the mother characters in these operas (see Appendix A). Chapters 3, 4, and 5 offer three case studies of the treatment of operatic “mothers”who are central to the plot of the operas in which they, respectively, appear: Fids from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète, Kostelnicka from Janácek’s Jenufa, and Mrs. Patrick DeRocher from Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking. Each includes an investigation of theopera’s context, the dramatic study of the mother character, an analysis of the musicalsettings of the drama, and performance aspects. A brief interview with Jake Heggie is included in Appendix B. This study concludes that the presence/absence of the mother character is influenced by vocal aesthetics as conventionalized by Metastasian opera seria plots, and by subsequentopera plot conventions formulated through socio-cultural values. Despite the difference in time, place and musical style among the operas studied, the problems and feelings of the mother character have not changed much from the nineteenth century to the twentieth. Whether sung by a mezzo-soprano, or, occasionally, by a soprano, a timeless stereotype of the mother character emerges: a woman tormented between the love for her children and her moral duties.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Role of The Maple Tree Spirit in Shadow Catch, composers: Dorothy Chang, Benton Roark, Jennifer Butler and Farshid Samandari (2022)

No abstract available.

Mansfield Park role study (2021)

No abstract available.

The role of "Don Giovanni" in "Don Giovanni" (2020)

No abstract available.

Role of Jonathan Dale in Silent Night Composer: Kevin Puts (2019)

No abstract available.

Role of Lensky in Eugene Onegin (2018)

No abstract available.

Role of Magda in The Consul (2017)

No abstract available.

Role of Poussette in Manon, Composer: Jules Massenet (2016)

No abstract available.

Role of Count Almavira in Le Nozze di Figaro. Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (2015)

No abstract available.

Role of "Rusalka" in "Rusalka" by AntonIn DvoYak (2013)

No abstract available.

Role of Mayor Upfold in "Albert Herring" (2012)

No abstract available.

Role(s) of George Cartier/Donald Smith/General Middleton in Louis Riel Composer: Harry Sommers (2011)

No abstract available.

The Role of "Zita" in "Gianni Schicchi" by Puccini (2010)

No abstract available.


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