The title tells the story.
Night #2 in the Amplified Opera opening concert series at the Ernest Balmer Studio was The Queen in Me, a performance piece straddling the line between surreal confessional and stand-up comedy, a brilliant piece of satire for a specialized audience.
The Queen is that badass character in The Magic Flute, the Queen of the Night, soldiering against one of the most misogynistic storylines going. Sometimes the Queen sings what’s written and sometimes she bursts out of the strait-jacket of the character, both in the mechanical sense of her costume and the subtler implications of the role written for her. She is a perfect mechanism for the exploration of the mad world of opera, the many females co-opted into rituals celebrating female subjugation: except the Queen won’t do it anymore. She seems to be on a quest, exploring different roles as ways to articulate the feminist position, sometimes working within a role, sometimes fighting or subverting it. I can recall previous satirical pieces in different decades that were knowing nods to the audience, while more or less keeping the artform & its creators (this time Mozart & Schikaneder) on their pedestals. This time it’s more in keeping with the mission of Amplified Opera, as a site for activism and shit-disturbing, largely in fun yet with an underlying seriousness to its mission. They appear to be fearless.
Do you mind a few words about astrology?
Amplified Opera was born yesterday, October 10th. That birthday in some ways couldn’t be more perfect for this new company. 10-10, in the astrological sign Libra, the scales, which signifies balance, the symbol of judgment & justice. Yesterday we saw Aria Umezawa direct a piece with some wit & humor but mostly seriousness, followed by an intense talk-back session.
Tonight it was the turn of Aria’s artistic partner Teiya Kasahara, a tour-de-force requiring brilliant singing, acting in multiple languages & several layers of irony. As I look at the two nights (and muse upon Saturday night’s program which I must miss) there is certainly a kind of balance at work between the two. It feels very much like yin & yang, the complementary sides of the operatic coin of dramaturgy and virtuosity, the director and the singer. The perfection of the symmetry whether in that 10-10 or in the balance between their personas or even their names is boggling my mind. My jaw drops as I think of what lies ahead for this intriguing company and its brilliant collaborators.
Afterwards we had another wonderful talk-back session, contemplating such things as the limits in the current operatic industry, proposing ways to break through to something new & wonderful. Watching Teiya sing parts of roles that one wouldn’t expect (thinking of the “fach” system, which categorizes the vocal requirements, and Teiya’s remarkable voice that transcends the usual limits), we went on to discuss the ways that pedagogy & the industry condition a culture resistant to change & newness. It’s breath-taking to imagine what the industry might become, especially through the injection of this new company’s creativity & politics of inclusivity.
Trevor Chartrand was a supportive presence at the piano, sometimes playing the piano part of the arias Teiya was exploring, sometimes taking us to wholly other realms –for instance in a soft & seductive reading of the Dance of the Seven Veils—in perfect partnership with Teiya. The piece was developed with Director Andrea Donaldson, a work in progress that I understand is coming back. If and when that happens don’t miss it, both for the amazing musical performances and the quirky satire.
The third night of the series (Saturday: October 12, 2019 @ 7:30 – What’s Known to Me is Endless at the Ernest Balmer Studio) concludes this brilliant launch of AMPLIFIED OPERA.
I offer Teiya & Aria my congratulations for an auspicious beginning.