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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: Did I escape, I wonder...

When a Chamber Feels Like a Prison
A small opera is more confusing than Wagner

by Valerie Cardinal
Just after walking out of Theatre Ste. Catherine after Did I Escape, I Wonder…, there is no way I could have told you what the plot was. A day later, I’m still lost.

Many audience members, including me, left very confused. Perhaps because of the venue, or just the way the libretto was written, understanding the words by Sebastian Hutchings and Sarah Albu was nearly impossible. The three “acts” of Did I Escape, I Wonder… feel more like unconnected vignettes; in one, a man speeds down the highway. In the next, a woman dons her armour. In the third, they sing in unison. A look at the program explains nothing, as ten-dollar words and confusing run-on sentences are thrown around, seemingly to sound deep. Did I Escape, I Wonder…is pretentious only for the sake of being pretentious. The whole show feels like it tries way to hard to be profound and experimental, and loses its message in the medium. It attempts to base itself in Greek mythology but references to Perseus and Medusa feel like they were tossed in just to sound intellectual. 
I will admit that I don’t have extensive experience in opera, and therefore maybe I’m missing something important. However, it is my impression that even though you can’t catch all of the words, the viewer usually has some sense of the general gist of the opera. Here, I was lost the whole time.
On the bright side, Sarah Albu and Clayton Kennedy apply their wonderful voices as best they can to the three acts. The live music composed by Sebastian Hutchings and performed by six-piece orchestra Ensemble Paramirabo is also quite beautiful and pleasantly dissonant. However, the execution of the show left me feeling like I was sitting in the theatre for way longer than an hour.

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