Opera Canti Del Capricorno (Chants du Capricorne) had a strong challenge to overcome due to the esoteric nature of its content. The producers have a piece whose complexity needs to be understood and appreciated both by neophytes and experienced spectators of contemporary modern performance opera.
Uniquely performed for the first time in 1995 by the soprano Pauline Vaillancourt, Canti Del Capricorno is a performance opera composed by Giacinto Scelsci (whose works blend oriental and western influences with demanding vocal dexterity through its required consistent fluctuations). 20 years later, the same modernity-influenced performance company, Chants Libres, brings the pice back to life. This time the performer is Marie-Annick Beliveau, a rising star in the field.
The semi-circular walled stage is illuminated by a 8 mm like projection of a colorful sunset as a cocoon-like shape hangs amidst psychedelic themes. Moments later it awakens into a creature of capricorn-like form, alien in nature, with overtly exposed sex organs, female in temperament and yet with a hermaphrodite character. It speaks, screams and moves around the stage in seemingly unintelligible language and actions.
Throughout the solo-performance of Ms. Béliveau, the mezzo-soprano enacts the metamorphosis of a creature from a distant world or reality. The foreign elements are grounded in the primal character of the sounds, movements and themes that are understood more by the sub-conscious than by the conscious. The complexity of the music, composed in the form of expressing energy through its sonic geometry and rhythmic variations is made accessible to all via its most prevalent subject — sexuality.
The erotic nature of the production is encouraged in every sense. The stage changes with suggestive projections either trough the movements or the colors that accompany each scene. There are also static elements present at each height alluding to sexual organs. The provocative imagery helps ensure that the foreign avant-garde element is surrounded by a very human language that pervades language.
But, the complexity of the performance is sometimes undermined by the primal and minimal elements of the show. One woman dances, moves, sings and screams in incomprehensible primal sounds on a small stage. She delivers a convincing portrayal of an unworldly being while performing demanding vocal feats, constant movement and dance notwithstanding. I have to stress just how impressed I was about the acting, as I have never been led to believe so convincingly that I was looking at an extraterrestrial being. As the show progresses, the being loses various elements of her costume, always followed by a moment of lamentation and confusion and then a display of freedom.
The colors, the themes and the brilliance of Ms. Béliveau’s performance are apparent, however the story is not. In speaking with my lady friend after the show, we discussed our understanding of what we saw. We both could agree on the erotic and metamorphosis themes. I saw the evolution of a young woman through the dynamic of sexuality and vitality. As she progressed past sexual maturity, her vitality disappeared. My lady friend noticed the elements of an orgasm as it goes from initial excitement, to the tempest of the act, fruition and ultimately the void left as one is without that pleasure. I believe we’re both right.
As an opera (and even more so a contemporary opera) neophyte I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the musical dexterity in its entirety but the performance as a whole captivated my mind and provoked my senses and therein lies the beauty of what I experienced.
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