Calamity Jane and Billy the Kid were two profoundly human outlaws and heroes of the Wild West. As part of the Armel Opera Festival , a series of events introducing contemporary and exciting opera interpretations, this unique French musical theatre production conjures up a long-lost America through two legends who, although they stumbled and fell, live on in space and time.
CALAMITY/BILLY combines works by two composers in a single evening. The music to Calamity Jane to her Daughter was composed for soprano voice by the master of microtonal music, Ben Johnston. The language is at once contemporary and nostalgic, with the violin, the old bar piano, the drums and unusual quarter tones lending the same sepia tone to the melodies as those familiar from old photos of Martha Canary (Jane's real name). The atmosphere of the 20-minute work is revisited in the post-minimalist piece composed by Gavin Bryars as an adaptation of the verse novel entitled The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-handed Poems by Michael Ondaatje, who also wrote The English Patient. The hymns of freedom and visions contained in the Kid poems were crying out to be set to music, and there is no one who understands how to highlight the vibration of the human voice better than the Tom Waits-favourite Bryars, who was commissioned to compose this work for soprano voice, blues singer and accompanying keyboard percussion ensemble (Percussions Claviers de Lyon).
CALAMITY/BILLY could not be further from the musical cosmos of action-packed western films. The theatrical scenery of its meditative universe emerges slowly and gradually from the minute gestures appearing in the faint light of the lamp: shards of sound and fragments of story propel us towards nostalgia for the free world of yesteryear. The role of Jane is played by the finalist of the Armel Opera Festival singing competition, the young Belgian soprano Sarah Defrise.
In French, with Hungarian and English surtitles.
Commissioned by the Théâtre de la Croix-Rousse and Théâtre de La Renaissance.
Further contributors to the co-production: Percussions Claviers de Lyon (France), Maison de la Culture de Bourges (France), Concertgebouw Brugge (Belgium), Operadagen Rotterdam (the Netherlands), Mahogany Opera Group (London, UK)
Presented by: Armel Opera Festival - Armel Nonprofit Kft.
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