For centuries Opera has been associated with high art; reserved for the elite upper class. Within this stigma lies conventions and traditions so deeply rooted, that it can become difficult for the art form to evolve outside of the box (haha), in order to re-establish its relevance and reach new audiences. Because of this ideology that people hold of opera being archaic and thus inherently, dare I say it, boring, Opera Outside the Box has brought us this breakthrough piece to show us opera’s true versatility. After seeing this show, I can safely say that opera definitely is not dead.
“Opéra, Reviens-moi” is an utterly wild and eccentric, queer feminist cabaret. Plucking classic opera hits from their respective narratives in order to turn them inside out, onto their head and utterly subvert them. All bets are off as six vocalists, and one pianist, take the stage in an ultimate mash-up of opera’s most beloved classical arias. Their recognizable character archetypes are taken further and pushed into the realm of the ridiculous in order to deconstruct and reinvent them. The energy of the performers electrifies the room as gender bending transformations, sexual awakenings, and even a gory revenge death takes place on stage.
Even if you’re completely unfamiliar with the form, you’ll probably still recognize many of these iconic melodies such as Carmen’s “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera)”, Lakmé’s “Duo des fleurs”, and La Bohème’s “Quando men vo”. They’ve also included some more contemporary hits such as “The Sound of Music” from The Sound of Music, and even a short excerpt of “Let it Go” from Frozen. Each song presents its own twist on its classical origins, not necessarily to create a new narrative – I actually don’t think there was a narrative at all – but instead exploring what their lyrics and messages represent in a more modern context. An example of this is when a character who plays the role of the technician for most of the show suddenly breaks in to Faust’s “The Jewel Song”, a song about giving in to temptation, as they begin to dress up in the expensive sparkly pink costume one of the other characters has left behind. Characters are transformed and then given a new glamorous persona.
Speaking of costumes –– this was another absolute highlight of the show. A smorgasbord of looks from grand ball gowns made of what looks like garbage bags, worn by the resident diva –– who also sported bleached eyebrows, the ultimate haut couture statement, to hospital gowns and long johns. The baroness (or I’m really not sure what to call her but she looked very important) donned a dress and matching trashed umbrella combo that could have belonged on this year’s MET Gala pink carpet.
Personally, I’m not the biggest opera person, but the energy that the performers brought to the table was undeniable and walking away I felt I was truly entertained. I think what holds people back from going to see opera today definitely has to do with a fear that if it’s not in English or French, then they just won’t understand it. This is why pieces that subvert the genre are definitely important in order to revitalize and renew. However, if you have never gone to see an opera before, then you probably won’t know what the conventions and clichés that this company is making fun of are, which means it’s not the most accessible piece for new opera goers. It might take a little more digging if you want to understand everything but it is still very enjoyable.
Opéra Outside the Box presents “Opéra, Reviens-moi”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Performances: June 6 – 16, 2019
Venue: 04 – Studio Multimédia du Conservatoire
4750 Henri-Julien, Montréal, H2T 2C8
Admission: $12 | Ages 18+
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from this year’s fest on our Fringe page!
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