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
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.