Magazine article Opera Canada

Marie Clements

Magazine article Opera Canada

Marie Clements

Article excerpt

Marie Clements, Pacific Opera Victoria (POV) and City Opera Vancouver (COV) aren't interested in telling a single story.

The tagline for Missing, POV and COVs' new co-production centred on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), reads: "A story everyone knows, from the vantage of a woman no one remembers," setting the scene for an opera that opens up conversation about an ongoing Canadian crisis.

The inclusion of First Nations issues in Canadian opera may seem new, but there are historical precedents. Aside from Harry Somers' recently remounted Louis Riel, Calixa Lavallee's 1883 operetta TIQ: Settled at Last. A Melodramatic Musical Satire in Two Acts depicts Sioux relations with the U.S. army (TIQ stands for "The Indian Question"), and Joseph Vezina's 1912 operetta La Fetiche tells of First Nations issues and conflicts in 19th-century Canada.

As outlined by music scholar Emily Gale of the University of California in a recent issue of Opera Quarterly, these early attempts to present multiple perspectives offer some surprisingly subversive pro-Indigenous messages within their satire. However, First Nations voices were generally silenced in these twentieth century, one-sided portrayals.

Peter Hinton's recent staging of Louis Riel at the Canadian Opera Company poignantly drew attention to the problematic storytelling employed in many artistic depictions of Canada's relationship with Indigenous peoples. In his production, an assembly of Indigenous actors stood mutely onstage throughout, symbolically pointing out the silencing of their voices in Canadian history.

Hinton will also stage Missing--the story of a victim of the MMIWG crisis. Though the composer of Missing, Brian Current, is not Indigenous, a wealth of First Nations perspectives have been involved in the creation process. COV and POV organised consultations and workshops with residents of Vancouver's Eastside neighbourhood and with members of the Indigenous community.

Librettist Marie Clements, who is Metis-Dene, praises the inclusive approach behind this new creation. In reflecting on some of the opera's objectives, she observes that "in some ways the story really is based on Native and non-Native experience ... I think those two things are important right now, to reconcile this issue and this trauma with the reality of how many murdered and missing women there are in B. …

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