Because I’ve written so much about composer Kevin March and the world premiere of his opera “Les Feluettes,” I feel I should explain why I came all the way from Hawaii to Montréal to attend the big event. So many reasons why I am so proud of the composer’s accomplishment. The local press is generous with publicity. For example:

Excerpted from an article by

ROBERT EVERETT-GREEN

MONTREAL — The Globe and Mail

 

“Michel Marc Bouchard has seen several transformations of his landmark play Les Feluettes, through eight translations for the stage and in John Greyson’s film adaptation Lilies, released in 1996. Writing the libretto for the opera version meant cutting at least half of the play, the playwright said in an interview between rehearsals, and reshaping the rest to fit a musical setting.

““We had to make room for the music, and especially for the two leading parts,” Bouchard said. He also wrote brand new text for several arias.

“Even so, “I find it easier and more gratifying to write for opera than for film,” he said, “because there is a closer proximity between opera and theatre. There’s the same unity of time, action and place, which you absolutely don’t find in cinema.”

“He was contacted by the American composer Kevin March after March saw the Greyson film in 2002. They were talking about a possible collaboration when Opéra de Montréal and Pacific Opera Victoria each contacted Bouchard independently, about making an opera version of Les Feluettes. The work became a co-commission that will be seen in Victoria in April, 2017.

“The opera, like the play, is set in a prison where a less-than-saintly bishop is forced to watch a re-enactment of events in which he played a part years before.

“The 50-piece orchestra is in prison too, visible on stage throughout the piece, wearing costumes made using only what could be found in a jail. There are nine solo roles in the piece and a chorus of 20 – all male.

“The play contains an overt operatic cue, in the form of an amateur theatrical scene from a Gabriele D’Annunzio play, Le Martyre de saint Sébastien, for which Claude Debussy wrote incidental music. March’s eclectic tonal score includes crucial references to Debussy, as well as scenes set to Quebec folkloric music and ragtime. March said he has also associated certain motifs and themes with particular characters, giving himself room to allude to things even when they’re not seen or spoken about on stage.

“The stylistic diversity matches the range of different kinds of French used in the play, Bouchard said, though he had to eliminate Québécois speech from the libretto. “If the whole opera were in Québécois, that would work. But to have a French character and a Québécois character singing together, the Quebecker sounds grotesque and funny.”

“It was also hard to preserve the play’s humour, Bouchard said, because operatic timing is more rigid. In terms of the interplay between performer and audience, he said, theatre is a hot medium, while opera is cold.

“But the playwright also said he feels proud to be putting this story on the opera stage, which hasn’t seen many same-sex love stories. “This is about two men in love, and not as accessories, but in front, as the main characters,” he said.”

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