, first announced in 2015, is moving forward as a co-commission with the Opéra de Montréal – the first mainstage collaboration of its kind between the two major Canadian opera companies; at its helm are two exceptional Canadian artists: Julien Bilodeau as composer and Michel Marc Bouchard as librettist.La Reine-Garçon
is inspired by Sweden’s Queen Christina, whose scandalously flamboyant and unconventional reign ended at 27 when she abdicated the throne. The opera zeroes in on a tumultuous time for the young monarch when a visit from French philosopher René Descartes upends everything she previously stood for – including her love for the Countess Ebba Sparre.
“We’re delighted to be partnering with the Opéra de Montréal on La Reine-Garçon,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “Collaborations like this are key to unlocking the potential of Canadian operatic storytelling.”
“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.”
“The creative process with any new work is rarely linear,” adds Neef of changes to La Reine-Garçon
. “As an opera begins to live and breathe, new directions often emerge; we are fortunate to work with artists who take risks, embrace exploration, and invest themselves fully and courageously in the process of operatic development. Julien and Michel Marc bring so many individual strengths to this particular production. Julien’s range as a composer is an extraordinary fit for the incredible spectrum of nuance Michel Marc has drawn out in these characters.”
Julien Bilodeau is one of the most prominent artists of his generation. In 2006, he was awarded the Robert Flemming Prize, given to the most promising young composer, by the Canada Council for the Arts. Most recently he was awarded Composer of the Year at the 2018 Opus Awards for his first opera, based on the lyrics of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall
. His works boast a diverse aesthetic and have been performed around the world by leading ensembles that include Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Metropolitan Orchestra, and Nouvel Ensemble Moderne.
Bilodeau says music for the opera immediately came to mind as he read through Bouchard’s libretto. “This story is about the foundation of modern society and the birth of great ideas that shaped the principles of humanism that are still, and even more, relevant today,” he says. “Free spirit, gender equality, and scientific knowledge – just to name a few - are well addressed in this beautiful text and Christine, the reine-garçon, embodies all, making her the perfect subject for an opera. She is ahead of her time and asks forbidden questions because she seeks to know who we are as human beings.”
“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
is the third operatic work by Michel Marc Bouchard. “It is a pleasure for me to work with Julien,” says Bouchard. “He is a true source of inspiration. Julien’s musical writing is masterful and incorporates the lyricism and sensitivity required to portray the many sides of Sweden’s queen. Whether we are creating scenes of great intimacy or epic grandeur, Julien can convey both the most delicate and most powerful of emotions.”
Bouchard counts the National Arts Centre Award, the Chalmers Award, the Dora Mavor Moore Award and the Lambda Literary Award among his numerous literary prizes. In 2005, the Montreal playwright was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and, in 2012, a Knight of the Order of Quebec. To date, he has penned more than 20 plays that have been translated into over 15 languages and performed around the world; six of those works, including Les Muses orphelines
, Tom à la ferme
, and Christine, la reine-garçon
, have been adapted for the screen. His Les Feluettes
, which explored same-sex love in the early 20th century, was adapted into an opera that premiered in 2016 at the Opéra de Montréal; the company subsequently commissioned his second opera, La beauté du monde
, set to premiere in 2021.
“I am heartened at the artistic dialogue seeing the work grow and develop with each meeting,” Bouchard says. “Julien and I have certainly embarked on a long creative journey in creating this opera for the COC, but it is a course that we travel with enthusiasm, every step of the way.”La Reine-Garçon
will be sung in French and is expected to premiere in 2023. Additional information regarding the opera’s creative team, as well as casting and design, will be released as details become available.
Photo credits (l-r): Julien Bilodeau, photo: Philippe Stirnweiss; Michel Marc Bouchard, photo: Julie Perreault.