Co-produced by Nightwood Theatre, Amplified Opera, Canadian Opera Company, and Theatre Gargantua
The Queen In Me, created and performed by Teiya Kasahara 野貞原笠, contains multitudes! It is an ode to opera; a rigorous deconstruction of its misogynistic tropes; a calling out of Euro-centric, cis-gendered, heteronormativity within the industry; and, ultimately, a rousing celebration of new, liberating conventions within the art form.
That all sounds very intimidating; it isn’t. In fact, Kasahara is mostly quite funny throughout their performance. With simple piano accompaniment David Eliakis, Kashara is a commanding presence as The Queen of Night from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The Queen stops the performance mid-aria to rail against the restrictive fates of the women in all your favourite classic operas.
A vital aspect of opera is spectacle and this presentation, directed by Andrea Donaldson and Aria Umezawa, provides ample. Designer Joanna Yu has raised Kasahara far above us, draped in a lavish chrome gown with ornate metallic headdress. Kasahara doesn’t move from this position, yet their presence is dynamic and majestic.
Laura Warren’s background projections take us through the chaos of fiery explosions and churning cosmic events to the soft comfort of petals carried on the wind. The visual feast is completed by André du Toit’s lighting, which catches the edges of Yu’s metallic gown and throws them into iridescent relief.
Even before tearing the restrictive, classical gown from their body, shedding convention; the artist behind this Queen reveals their struggle within an industry that has continued to alienate trans, non-binary performers, as well as cis-gendered women seeking roles that express aspects of female identity that don’t fit into traditional, patriarchal expectations.
Kasahara is a force to be reckoned with, offering up stunning renditions of beloved pieces from Puccini, Donizetti, Verdi, Strauss, Massenet and Mozart. Even more exhilarating is their reclamation of the spotlight on their own terms, mastering the material and illustrating—viscerally—the transcendent potential of the art form. We can and must push beyond the clever, aesthetic gimmicks of contemporary staging and make real space for the full spectrum of gender expression.
This run of The Queen In Me has ended, but I imagine Teiya Kasahara 野貞原笠 will return to it. And there will be other radical operatic projects from Amplified Opera. The future of the industry has yet to be written.