Sleeping Rough is a new opera about a homeless man named Ted and his rollercoaster journey from a dysfunctional childhood to life on the street. With a libretto written by award-winning poet Sandra Nicholls, composer Roddy Ellias has created a score that crosses musical and expressive genres combining elements of classical music, jazz and popular music. The opera is even more exceptional because the main roles are played by puppets created by Noreen Young (Order of Canada), and the singers behind those puppets — Kellylee Evans, Hélène Brunet, Felicity Williams and Gary Dahl — are artists chosen by Ellias for their highly expressive and personal styles of singing.

Sleeping Rough was first performed in Ottawa’s Arts Court theatre as part of the 2018 Music and Beyond festival. It sold out all three scheduled shows, received standing ovations and overwhelmingly favourable reviews, and has already been invited back to perform again at the 2019 festival.

exquisitely expressive… lyric storytelling
— La Scena Musicale
The full-body puppets were handled by a team of five skilled puppeteers dressed in black hoodies and looking like a street gang. The puppeteers deftly manipulated their charges but their faces, ringed by the black hoods, reminded me of dark angels surrounding a sort of medieval tableau. They created a surprising and almost ethereal image.
— Arts File
In particular the interactions between the talented Ottawa jazz and pop singer Kellylee Evans and Ted provided some of the best moments in the piece. Evans was the one singer to move to centre stage as she was Ted’s conscience and a sort of Greek Chorus advancing the story along.
The other vocalists were in fine form, particularly [Hélène] Brunet in her mother’s lament near the end of the evening. Her powerful classically trained soprano filled the black box theatre. The contrast between [Felicity] Williams’ jazz fluidity and Brunet was an interesting element of the music.
— Arts File