Monthly Archives: October 2017

Les Feluettes at Edmonton Opera

Jean-Michel Richer and Zachary Read in Les Feluettes. Photo by Nanc Price for Edmonton Opera

Edmonton Opera’s current production of Les Feluettes, a Canadian opera in French based on the play of the same name by Michel Marc Bouchard, has one more performance, this Friday October 28th.  Bouchard is also the author of the play Tom at the Farm, of which I saw a performance at the University of Alberta last season, directed by Brenley Charkow.

When I first heard of Les Feluettes and read a plot synopsis, I was dubious.  I liked the idea of increased LGBTQ representation in opera, as in any performance art, but it sounded like a very sad story.  I get a little tired of stories in which same-sex relationships or LGBTQ characters are inevitably doomed, because for a long time that’s how most LGBTQ characters were portrayed.   Maybe I’m past being desperate for representation and on to the stage of wanting a variety of representation, some of it admirable and some of it happy.

However, I attended a performance of Les Feluettes despite my misgivings, and I’m very glad I did.  The story does have a sad ending with emotional resonance, but not unusually so for opera.   And the aesthetics of the production are just gorgeous.  I’m reconciled partly because it’s good art, and partly because the tragic outcome isn’t just due to the young gay students Simon and Vallier being unable to pursue their relationship in the 1912 Roman Catholic culture of a small northern Québec town, but also due to the jealous and guilt-ridden actions of one particular classmate, who is tormented by his own attraction to Simon.   One might even look to the story of this opera as an illustration of why the Alberta government is currently in conflict with separate school authorities over curricular objectives on sexuality.   Young people who are taught to fear, hate, or deny their own sexuality and that of others can do terrible harm to themselves or others.

The opera, like the play on which it’s based, has a “play within a play” structure (and in fact, there’s actually a play within the play within the play.).  As the flashback scenes are performed by a group of prisoners for the visiting Bishop (Gordon Gietz), all the performers are male, including the chorus and supernumeraries.  Costumes appear as if they could have been constructed out of prison uniforms, draperies, and other available materials by the prisoners for the purpose of acting out this story.  Female characters in the flashbacks are played by male prisoners, and not in an inherently ridiculous way.  Baritone Dominique Côté is the mother somewhat out of touch with reality, played with kindness and pathos.  Countertenor Daniel Cabena is convincing as the young Lydie-Anne, Simon’s fiancée.  The young prisoners who portray the young Simon and the young Vallier (Zachary Read and Jean-Michel Richer) have very strong chemistry and voices that sound good together.

The plot synopsis is available on line and in the printed program.   I would have similar concerns about inviting people to a performance of Romeo and Juliet if they were not prepared for the outcome because I always find stories of the unnecessary deaths of young people upsetting.  But if you are willing to watch a sad opera, you should consider going to see this one on Friday.  Some tickets are still available here.

Letters from (and to) A Doll’s House

torvald nora

Tim Marriott, as Torvald, and Nicole English, as Nora, in A Doll’s House. Photo Kristen Finlay.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m worried about my old friend. I just moved to her city, and we’ve been spending time together for the first time since she got married.  Captain, I think she’s married to a Darth Vader Boyfriend.  She pretends to follow his order not to eat macaroons, but sneaks them behind his back.  When I offered to help her with some mending, she pushed me into the kitchen with the help, saying “Torvald can’t stand to see anyone sewing”.  And he totally mansplained me the other day about how knitting was an ugly low-class pastime and advised me how to do embroidery instead.  She goes along with his whims to a ridiculous extent and she thinks he’s wonderful.  Captain, what can I do?

  • (pronouns she/her). 

Dear Ask a Manager:

I don’t have good references because I made some mistakes in my past.  No charges were laid, but I was stuck using some sketchy schemes to make money for a while, until I got this entry-level job at the bank.  Now I’m keeping my record clean and looking forward to promotion.  When I found out one of my old school friends was hired as the new vice-president, I was sure this would be an advantage for me.  So I started dropping in at his office and reminiscing loudly about the things we got up to at school.  And now he says I’m being too familiar and he’s given me a written warning and a pink slip!  However, I’ve got something on his wife (see above, sketchy schemes), so I was thinking that I should just blackmail them into letting me keep my job and move up at the bank.  Nothing can go wrong with this, right?

NK


Dear Miss Manners:

As I am in chronic pain due to congenital syphilis (which my nanny told me was my father’s fault), I would like to die with dignity while I have some agency.  I don’t think my friends could handle seeing me in rough shape, so I’d like to tell them to stay away.  What’s the approved way of notifying them using visiting cards? 

Doc


From Dan Savage, Savage Love, confidential to NoNoNora:  DTMFA.


The conflicts and choices portrayed in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, first produced in 1879, are disturbingly timely in 2017.   Alex Hawkins directed the current Walterdale Theatre Associates production to show the complexity of all the characters and the ways class and gender affect their choices. Nicole English (last seen as Mrs. Lovett in ELOPE’s Sweeney Todd) is troubling and inspiring as Nora, and the rest of the cast is strong as well (Tim Marriott as Torvald, Dave Wolkowski as Krogstad, Marsha Amanova as Christine, dale Wilson as Dr. Rank, and Leslie Caffaro as Anne Marie).   The designers worked with the restrained palette of 1879 Norway to create an atmosphere embodying both oppression and beauty, with set by Joan Heys Hawkins, costumes by Geri Dittrich, lighting by Richard Hatfield and Rebecca Cave, sound by Kiidra Duhault, and props by Alayna Hunchak.

A Doll’s House continues at the Walterdale Theatre until Saturday October 21st, 8 pm Tuesday-Saturday and 2 pm Sunday.  Same-day tickets are available at the door and advance tickets are through Tix on the Square.