Neilson Vignola graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada in 1980. He began his professional career working in various capacities at many leading Quebec theatre companies, including the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde and the Compagnie Jean Duceppe.
It was with a 1981 production of The Tales of Hoffman that Neilson took his first steps into the world of opera as a stage manager. He received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ministry of Arts and Culture of Quebec and left for Europe in 1985, where he spent a year observing the work of several opera directors. In 1986 he assisted the director Richard Dembo on another production of The Tales of Hoffman, and Robert Altman on his production of The Rake’s Progress. In 1989 he worked on a production of Aida staged in Tokyo and Toronto. From 1990 to 1993 he was director of production at the Opéra de Montréal. In 1996 he worked on a production of Turandot mounted at the Montreal Olympic Stadium and in 1997 he directed La Cenerentola at McGill University.
His longtime collaboration with TOTEM‘s director Robert Lepage, working as his assistant, began with a production of The Damnation of Faust, which was staged in Japan (1999), Paris (2001) and New York (2008). This was followed by a production of 1984 (the world premiere of which was mounted in London in 2005) and The Rake’s Progress, which played in Brussels and Lyon in 2007.
Throughout his career, Neilson has also worked on festivals, musicals, dance productions and tours. Between 1987 and 1997, La La La Human Step, the Quebec singer Diane Dufresne, Le Théâtre Populaire du Québec, Le Festival International de Nouvelle Danse and other companies, engaged him as stage manager, production director, technical director or assistant stage director.
Neilson has worked steadily at Cirque du Soleil since his first assignment in 1998 as technical director and then interim tour director of Saltimbanco. Following an assignment directing the development of new touring show infrastructure in 2002, he joined KÀ as director Robert Lepage’s assistant and production stage manager, and in 2005 he filled the same positions on DELIRIUM with Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon – which led to his first appointment as director of creation on ZAIA in 2007, followed by TOTEM.
“For me, the ultimate satisfaction is to deliver a show that will conquer and provoke emotions in the audience,” says Neilson. “Our approach to TOTEM was to create a Big Top show in which not only human beings, but humanity itself would be at the very heart of our purpose.”
Neilson Vignola was born in Forestville, Quebec in 1956.