Home     Content     Articles      La Scena Musicale     Search   

La Scena Musicale - Vol. 3, No. 1

A Three-Dimensional Woman - Chants Libres Liberates Frida Kahlo

by Philip Anson / September 1, 1997

Two years ago after soprano Pauline Vaillancourt, artistic director of the avant-garde lyric theatre company Chants Libres, finished her provocative one-woman show Chants du Capricorne, she doubted she'd ever find a subject to inspire her to the same level of creative innovation. Then a friend gave her the Journal of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. "As I read the journal of this exceptional woman the phrases took on a life of their own and I began to see and hear a story take shape. Kahlo was an intensely physical, charismatic person - everyone remembers how she looked, how she moved, her perfume, the sound of her jewellery, the tone of her voice. A three-dimensional woman, the perfect subject for an opera! I knew I was on to something right away," enthuses Vaillancourt, still breathless after a recent rehearsal at L'Espace Go. "Kahlo has one of the most remarkable artistic biographies. As a girl she was crippled in a traffic accident that damaged her spine and uterus. After several miscarriages she realised that she would never have the children she desperately wanted. When she devoted herself to lovers they betrayed her. Some say she was Trotsky's mistress. The circumstances of Kahlo's life were amazing, but my opera is not a documentary. It is Kahlo's life transposed and abstracted to the higher level of universal experience. Hope and despair, innocence and cynicism, trust and betrayal, pleasure and pain are part of everyone's life. I try to spotlight the force of destiny behind Kahlo's unique circumstances. To me Frida Kahlo was the perfect example of a certain type of genius who is a puppet of fate. She was a rare spirit born to change people's lives. She suffers terrible accidents and cruelty. She struggles bravely against fate, against nemesis, but of course succumbs." Though Kahlo dies, Vaillancourt sees it as a constructive, almost optimistic tragedy. "Creatively, Kahlo was almost a saint. Through a superhuman effort she made the best of bad times. Just as Mexicans have a living relationship with Death - they have an annual festival to celebrate it - likewise for me mortal disintegration is an aspect that must be seen as instructive, redemptive, cathartic - otherwise what's the point?"

Yo soy la desintegración
is a sixty-minute, eight-act, one-woman show. It benefits immensely over previous large-scale Chants Libres productions by being under the sole authority of creator/director/singer Pauline Vaillancourt. Working closely with composer Jean Piché and librettist Yan Muckle, Vaillancourt has masterminded a strongly unified piece of theatre in which the complex electroacoustic soundtrack (incorporating Latin American folksongs, rhythms, traditional instruments as well as the subconscious groans and mutterings of the tormented heroine) accompanies her plaintive narration and expressive choreography. The colourful sets, costumes, and visual effects benefit from the Latin American sensibility of Venezuelan designer Anita Pantin. From what I saw of a recent rehearsal, Yo soy la desintegración will be much better theatre than last year's Le Vampire et la nymphomane. I expect the Frida Kahlo story will be remembered as one of Chants Libres' most gripping and successful projects.

Yo soy la desintegración. Sept. 9-13, 16-20. 20 h. Montreal: Théâtre ESPACE GO. 4890 St. Laurent, coin St. Joseph. $24.$18 students/seniors. (514) 845-4890/Admission (514) 790-1245.

Gagnez ! Win!

Deux billets pour la représentation de Yo soy la desintegración le 17 septembre à 20h. Envoyez votre nom et numéro de téléphone avant le 12 septembre à La Scena Musicale : Tél : (514) 274-1128 / Télécopieur : (514)274-9456.

Two tickets to the performance of Yo soy la desintegración on Wednesday Sept. 17 at 20h. Call and leave your name and number at La Scena Musicale at (514)274-1128 or fax (514)274-9456. Four pairs of tickets will be drawn on Sept. 12. Winners will be informed by phone.

(c) La Scena Musicale