Christmas has come early Canadian for opera lovers.
The Canadian Opera Company today announced two new upcoming mainstage commissions: The Old Fools by Ana Sokolović, and La Reine-Garçon by Julien Bilodeau. The later is a co-commission between the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and the Opéra de Montréal (OdeM).
The Old Fools will be a two-act opera inspired by the poem of the same name by English poet Philip Larkin, and will premiere in Toronto, 2021. It will be sung in English and French.
Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms
Inside your head, and people in them, acting
People you know, yet can’t quite name; each looms
Like a deep loss restored…
[Extract from “The Old Fools” by Philip Larkin, taken from High Windows]
“Paired with Paul Bentley as librettist, the two have created something very special and unique for the COC stage; The Old Fools takes what we assume to be one person’s reality and opens our eyes to a whole other world within,” said COC General Director Alexander Neef in a press release statement.
British writer and actor Paul Bentley has written librettos for five other operas that include Poul Ruders’ The Handmaid’s Tale (performed at the COC in 2004), Philip Glass’ Kafka’s Trial, and The Midnight Court with Ana Sokolović.
“I have created the central role in the opera for an old man, negotiating the end of his life,” explained Sokolović in a statement. “He can’t live at home anymore because he is no longer physically independent. The subject matter is universal and poignant, as we’re seeing a growing phenomenon of more and more old people spending their last days outside of their homes. In spite of his frail physical appearance, the old man escapes his surroundings by climbing into the lighted rooms in his head. In these rooms, he recollects intense emotional moments of his life when he experienced overwhelming joy, friendship, and love.”
La Reine-Garçon, composed by Quebec’s Julien Bilodeau, with a libretto by Michel Marc Bouchard, marks the first-ever partnership between the COC and OdeM.
The new opera is inspired by Sweden’s Queen Christina, whose scandalously flamboyant and unconventional reign ended at 27 when she abdicated the throne. It is scheduled to premiere in Montreal during the 2023 season.
“Our artistic director, Michel Beaulac, and I are thrilled to offer our audiences this exciting new operatic adventure by two of Montreal’s most eminent artists,” says Patrick Corrigan, General Director of the Opéra de Montréal. “The Opéra de Montréal is truly delighted to partner with the Canadian Opera Company in our first co-commission of a new work together.”
“Working with Michel Marc is a true privilege,” adds Bilodeau. “His gift for words and his sensibility for music have led to a collaboration that is rightly challenging for me, as a composer.”
La Reine-Garçon will be the third opera by Julien Bilodeau for Opéra de Montréal, which premiered Les Feluettes back in 2016. The second is La Beauté du Monde, which will premiere before La Reine-Garçon in 2021, Montréal.
A prolific composer, Bilodeau recently composed the music of Another Brick in the Wall, an opera based on the work of Pink Floyd and Roger Waters, which opened Montreal in 2017. The opera will make it’s Toronto premiere next November at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
The Old Fools and La Reine-Garçon are the sixth and seventh mainstage operas commissioned by the COC since 1950. The last mainstage commission from the COC was Hadrian, which premiered in October 2018 by composer Rufus Wainwright and librettist Daniel MacIvor.