Opera at the Fringe? Hell yeah I’m going! Are you kidding? Not that I’m the biggest Opera fan around, not by a long shot…I’ve only honestly seen one so far. But as soon as I heard that Toronto company Opera Five had been picked in the Ottawa Fringe Lottery, I was kind of excited. There had, to my knowledge, never been an Opera show at the Fringe, and isn’t new stuff kinda what Fringe is all about?
So the other day I made my way in for LA VOIX HUMAINE by Francis Poulenc (music) and Jean Cocteau (libretto), and directed by Aria Umezawa. Set in a sweetly decorated Arts Court Theatre, and using a series of shifting screen projections as a backdrop, the show stars Rachel Krehm as ‘Elle’, our tragic heroine (I’m not spoiling anything, folks…it’s opera, they’re ALL tragic). Live piano accompaniment helps to tell our tale of a love gone sour, as Elle tries frantically over and over to talk to her estranged lover on the telephone, her room a sea of photographs of him in various stages of being grief-shredded. Needless to say Elle isn’t taking the breakup well.
It’s just a beautiful show, with moments of dark humour interspersing one long descent into madness that gets sold thanks to Rachel Krehm’s terrific performance and utterly amazing voice. Seriously, she’ll rattle yer bones with her high notes, and that’s no foolin’. People should be flocking to this show, because you really don’t get Opera of this caliber for this price tag, like, EVER. I’d love to see this show getting great houses and feeling the love (and note to certain prominent local critics…make sure to turn your cellphones off before the show starts, okay?). And it should be noted that, yes, the show is sung entirely in French, but you Anglos take heart…English surtitles are projected overhead so you can follow along with a minimum of effort. So take a chance on something new…Fringe does, after all, come but once a year. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)