Montreal has had one crazy busy week recently with the Opera America annual conference and, not one, but two opera world premieres! Opera de Montreal not only hosted the conference, they also presented the long-awaited new opera Les Feluettes. This co-production with Pacific Opera Victoria is composed by award-winning Australian composer Kevin March and is based on the famous Quebec play by Michel Marc Bouchard.
You'll read the play, the synopsis, and reviews everywhere, so at Opera With Pearls, we decided to take a different, more intimate approach to this fascinating opera. For one thing, I am still in Oslo for another month, so I'll be unable to attend a performance. (I still haven't accepted that, but that's beside the point.) So who better to relate the events than one of the characters? Now you're thinking "Cath, did you have coffee yet?" (The answer is yaass.)
With the help of Elizabeth Bowman (Bowman media) and Kathy Domoney (Domoney Artists), I was able to interviewMademoiselle Lydie-Anne de Rozier, interpreted by countertenor Daniel Cabena. Yes, it's a man playing a woman. Actually, its a man playing a prisonner playing a woman... In short, he's a man in drag. Don't be shocked, it's a common thing in opera!
Cabena: Women frequently are and long have been called up to sing male roles in opera. Well, the same has been true in the other direction at various times in the history of opera. I'd say that gender fluidity is an important and beautiful feature of opera's heritage, a tradition which, after all, reflects and explores all the dimensions of human experience. I also feel that that fluidity is a gift to performers, that it provides a unique opportunity through which deeply and freely to explore themselves and the characters that they are embodying. So, that's all by way of saying two things: that cross-dressing in opera is not "a big deal," that it is entirely part of the richness of the tradition; and that - not at all conversely! - it's a very "big deal," a gift to performers and a celebration of the variety and fluidity of the human experience, which opera so beautifully celebrates. I should also say, though, for the sake of precision, that in Les Feluettes I'm not exactly playing the role of a woman but, rather, that of a male prisoner who's playing a woman in a play-within-a-play. I think that that extra layer adds a fascinating dimension to the discussion of gender roles, while at the same time rendering it moot! It's really such a wonderful work, full of softness and power and love.
What Lydie-Anne had to say before everything goes up in flames...
Why do you fall for Simon? He's such a beautiful young man, and so promising. There's so much that I could do with him. I can show and teach him so much - just the right things in just the right time. He is still so young. I can feel all the energy of his burgeoning manhood behind the modest kisses that he gives me.
Did you have a feeling there was something romantic between him and Vallier? What were the hints? There was, even when I first saw them together, a spark in the air between them. But I didn't think they'd even noticed; and I certainly don't think that they'd named their feelings. ...Boys will be boys, after all. But I really must get him away from the unsophisticated influences of this place.
How do you feel about two men in love? Of course men can love one another. We all know this. But there are limits to how that love can express itself, here and now. In polite society we now how to address these things: men know when and where and how to love one another; they know that there's a time and a place in which to be a boy and a time and a place in which to be a man and a husband. Simon has still to learn all of this. Nor can he learn it here in Roberval. But, thankfully, he has me. I can take him away from all of this, lift him out from this backwards place. And that's just a part of the real love that I can offer him. It's so much more than this Vallier has to give.
A perfect wedding is every girl's dream. Did you enjoy yours? Why or why not? Simon's and my wedding wasn't quite what I would have wished for him or for me. But, though there were threats and storms, even some unwelcome intrusions, Simon and I were there together, and I made known our plan to leave. But I did have to put certain people in their place. You know how the country gentry and clergy can get above themselves! And sometimes the kindest thing one can do is to tell them what's what. But we needn't discuss that now. Suffice it to say that Simon and I made use of the charms, such as they were, of the surroundings and the company. And who doesn't enjoy a party? We will depart very soon for Paris.
Les Feluettes, presented by Opera de Montreal At Place des Arts on May 24, 26, and 28, 2016.
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