Magazine article Opera Canada

Toronto

Magazine article Opera Canada

Toronto

Article excerpt

In his notes for the long-awaited Apr./ May Canadian Opera Company revival of Harry Somers' opera, director Peter Hinton begins with an appropriate reminder that Louis Riel was the first opera written by a Canadian to be presented by the COC. Although seldom staged in the years following its 1967 premiere (the commissioning company last performed it in 1975), the piece has come to be recognized as something close to our national opera, as much because of its iconic Canadian story as its artistic merits

It is also a product of its time, much more sensitive to our French-English struggle (the Two Solitudes of Hugh MacLennan's novel), reflected in Mavor Moore's collaboration on a bilingual libretto with the Quebec playwright Jacques Languirand, than to the aboriginal role in the opera's story (notwithstanding the incorporation of some Cree in the text). It was Hinton's declared intention that "a more inclusive and expansive history be restored and amended for this 2017 production, "de-emphasizing colonial biases," through the collaboration of a team of Metis and First Nations artists and the addition of an accusatory silent chorus of indigenous men and women.

As well-meaning politically as this approach may have been, it failed in execution to breathe much dramatic energy into an austere staging (atmospherically deficient sets by Michael Gianfranco, oddly coordinated costumes by Gillian Gallow) of an opera that worked better--if memory serves--in Leon Major's more naturalistic premiere production. …

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