Message from composer Kevin March

The story of the serendipitous and odds-defying creation of Les Feluettes began in March 2002, when I saw Lilies. Minutes into the film, I had an overwhelming sense that I was watching an opera. The words were lyrical; the characters, compelling; their stories, absorbing. It was easy to imagine the lines being sung. As I left the cinema, I was already making plans to adapt the film into an opera. By the end of that year, I was discussing the adaption with Michel Marc Bouchard.

In March 2011, Michel Beaulac, Artistic Director of the Opéra de Montréal, contacted Michel Marc to discuss commissioning an opera based on one of his plays. Although we did not know it, the play he had in mind was Les Feluettes.. Imagine our delight in being able to show Michel Beaulac that we had already started work on just such an opera.  As these events unfolded in Montreal, over in Victoria, Patrick Coorigan, Ian Rye, and Timothy Vernon were also imagining an opera based on Les Feluettes. When they heard of Montréal’s planthey joined Opéra de Montréal as co-procuder to bring Les Feluettes to the opera stage.

Over the course of the next 5 years, Michel Marc adapted his play into a libretto and I wrote the music for Les Feluettes. A series of four developmental workshops were held during which every scene, aria, duet, chorus, quite literally every word and measure of the opera was tested.  Cuts were made, scenes revised, new arias added. During rehearsals, leading up to the premiere, a chorus section was added, a whole scene change was added and an entirely new aria was composed for Etienne Dupuis and added with only one week to go before opening.

I’m often asked how one approaches the task of writing an opera.  In this case it all began with the words, which were rich with musical implications. The play’s stage directions call for the use of Debussy’s incidental music to D’Annunzio’s infamous Le Martyre de St. Sebastien which frames Vallier and Simon’s love for one another; the 1912 settings recall the music of the Belle Epoch and American ragtime; and La musique traditionnelle québécoise would have been commonplace. In creating the sound of Les Feluettes, it seemed necessary that all of these musical references be respected and represented.

MEET LES FELUETTES (LILIES) LIBRETTIST MICHEL MARC BOUCHARD

Arguably one of the biggest names in Canadian theatre today, playwright Michel Marc Bouchard has written over 25 plays that have been translated into several languages, performed internationally, and have even seen award-winning cinematic adaptations.

A recipient of the Order of Canada and Order of Quebec, Bouchard has also been recognized with a National Arts Centre Award, Chalmers Award, Vancouver’s Jessie Richardson Awards and Toronto’s Dora Mavor Moore Awards. Some of his notable works are Les Feluettes (1987), The Orphan Muses (1988), and more recently Tom at the Farm (2011), which was turned into a film by Canadian directing prodigy Xavier Dolan.

The themes of Bouchard’s plays are varied, but are often immersed in myth and allegory, with inherent lyricism and larger-than-life characters. Many of his works explore queer identity against the backdrop of strict socio-cultural norms, as is the case in Les Feluettes.

When asked what interests him in opera, Bouchard replies it is “the sheer magnitude of the emotions, which – through singing and music – touches the most intimate aspects of our being” (Opéra de Montréal program, 2016). This grandeur of storytelling is intrinsic to Bouchard’s play Les Feluettes, lending itself quite naturally to his first operatic commission by Opéra de Montréal and Pacific Opera Victoria.

Les Feluettes received widespread acclaim at its Montreal premiere in 2016, validating Bouchard’s highly anticipated foray into opera. He is already working on his next project, a commission of Christine, la reine-garçon (The Girl King) by the Canadian Opera Company with composer Ana Sokolovic.

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Experience the Alberta premiere of Les Feluettes (Lilies) at the Jubilee Auditorium October 21, 24 and 27, 2017. Season tickets to all three operas are now available from just $99!