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Did I escape, I wonder…
Notes de programme
And so the trap is sprung. The two hunters leap forward, not aware that their own actions contain the barbs of their undoing: metal teeth are attached to their hearts and the springs that activate the weapons are coiled by their two wills. In failing to understand themselves they lash out and the jaws of the trap slam shut. They gnash at each other, and throw their bodies into the fray: enemy against enemy, hunter against prey, lover against true love. Are they doomed? Any attempt to pry these jaws apart is futile; violence drives them irrevocably together.
— from the libretto
Did I escape, I wonder… is a chamber opera in three acts plus narrative intermezzos, scored for soprano, baritone, harp, flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, cello, and actor. Each act unfolds as a separate drama: a man driving his passengers to their death; a woman stalking the interior of her bedroom in wait of an unknown adversary; two lost souls seeking reconciliation amidst their many failed attempts at love. Between these disparate scenes, a narrator weaves the story of Medusa, the gorgon with the head of snakes. But unlike many tellings of the myth, the narrator focuses not on Medusa the monster or Perseus the hero, but instead on the tale of a man and a woman frozen by their circumstances, failing to understand themselves and subsequently caught in a web of actions they are left to grapple with and attempt to unravel. Directed by these musings, the audience is left to reflect on the way our own stories loop around, the same patterns appearing again and again.
This opera was first produced as a double bill alongside the play Rob Ford and the Mysterious Case of the Flying Anarchist by playwright Matt Jones. While different in form and in narrative, Matt and I enjoyed the way the two pieces created a unique experience for the audience, comedy set off by drama, opera set off by slapstick. We presented the production over four nights in August of 2011 at Theatre Ste. Catherine in Montreal. Did I escape was brilliantly performed by Sarah Albu, Clayton Kennedy, Ellen Gibling, and Ensemble Paramaribo.
I went on to present this opera two more times, including at the 2012 Ottawa International Chamber Festival, with Sarah and Clayton reprising their roles, as well as at Cube Gallery in Ottawa with the Ottawa New Music Creators. The Chamber Fest production took place at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts in the basement of a beautiful old church. The room was stuffy and the night hot, perfect for an opera that never really leaves you feeling comfortable. It was fun!