Interrogating the opera industry's long history of exclusion, The Queen In Me seeks to reclaim space not only for countless women, trans, and non-binary opera artists, but for the characters themselves and their stories. As the show's creator and sole performer, Teiya Kasahara 笠原貞野 (they/them) taps into their own lived experiences within opera to deliver this vital, vibrant production.
In their Creator's Note, Kasahara explores the deeply personal history behind the show's development. Read on to learn more!
2016 was a bad year for me. I had just come out of a depression and was considering leaving the opera industry and singing entirely. I had been struggling with being an opera singer in the industry for some time. Struggling with trying to fit in, trying to be what the industry deemed as hireable and successful. But every time I tried to project that image—that persona—I felt like I was losing a part of myself in the process. I didn’t know how to cope anymore, let alone survive as the queer, mixed-race singer I was/am. I was literally putting on a mask every day and not knowing who would be left underneath when I went home at night.
I realized it was time to ask myself some hard questions: why was I giving so much power to a job that demanded me to change the very nature and fabric of who I was? And what did it say about me that I was willing to put up with this industry’s long-outdated beliefs? I didn’t know much then, but I did know I couldn’t simply leave opera behind and walk away. Opera was and remains my lifeforce and my greatest gift. I would have to work for change from within. I would also have to go back to the beginning and rediscover when I fell in love with this vocation in the first place. That’s where I re-met the Queen of the Night.
Over my career I have performed the Queen of the Night in fourteen different iterations of The Magic Flute, each one seeing the famous character as an evil, fallen woman, and an obstacle who needed to be removed in order for the two young lovers to get their happy ending. Creating my own version of the Queen of the Night character, who served as the inspiration of The Queen In Me in early 2017, became my safe space and playground, while the Queen herself became my solace and my advocate. She inspired me to disrupt the world around me, she gave me the platform to speak and sing my truth, and by continuing to develop this solo piece, I started to not only say enough was enough, but I began singing in ways and through works I had never dreamed possible.
It has been a long road. We were supposed to premiere this work in September 2020, but COVID-19 had other plans. However, I’m glad the premiere was delayed until June 2022. While this great pivot took away a lot, it also gave me time to become myself, the real person I was holding back all of these years in the opera industry. And the journey continues to be a winding one. I came out as trans non-binary during this time to myself, to my partner, family, friends, and close colleagues, and with their support I’ve been able to say to the world, this is me. So much of my identity is wrapped up in my voice, a voice that is high—a soprano—and characterized as feminine to the ear, which cascades into the outside world assuming the rest of me is gendered feminine also. And that is okay. Sometimes. But for me, that is not me, as I am learning and unlearning from my past experiences. My voice is a beautiful and loving part of who I am. And my voice can also be trans, just like my body, mind and heart, with or without medical interventions. I don’t regret for a second being assigned female at birth and being socialized as a girl and a young woman. My experiences in womanhood make me the person I am today, make me whole—trans and ever-evolving—and make it possible for me to dream and live my gender and ethnicity through not only a fierce and feminine character like the Queen, but also beyond, both on and off the stage.
Working with Andrea Donaldson as dramaturg and director, co-founding Amplified Opera with Aria Umezawa, Asitha Tennekoon, and Marion Newman, and building my community of dear colleagues, has enabled me to probe further artistically and to honour my full self as I continue these healing and learning journeys with compassion and gentleness.
What the mask of the Queen of the Night affords me now is so much more than I could have ever initially imagined. She is a celebration of my past self, of the freedom and unbridled joy I always wanted to feel as a closeted, scared, young singer. She is my cheerleader helping me to redefine what it means to be a soprano in the opera industry. And she is my companion and confidante as I continue to venture into this career of making art, of making space, and celebrating my community. Now, I can finally say that the they/them/theirs of me and my voice are here to stay, welcoming continual disruption of my own perception of what gender is and can be, and of what it means to be a soprano.
—Teiya Kasahara 笠原 貞野 (they/them)
Creator and Performer
Supported by: Underwritten in part by:Major Cultural Partner: