Movies

Soundstreams Canada – Tomson Highway and Melissa Hui’s “The Journey/Pimooteewin”

Soundstreams Canada – Tomson Highway and Melissa Hui’s “The Journey/Pimooteewin” featured image

by Paula Citron.
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The Journey/Pimooteewin
Soundstreams Canada
Composed by Melissa Hui
Libretto by Tomson Highway
Directed and choreographed by Michael Greyeyes
Conducted by Lydia Adams
Starring Xin Wang, Bud Roach, Cara Gee and the Elmer Iseler Singers
At the Jane Mallett Theatre
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Soundstreams Canada celebrated its 25th anniversary with a new Cree opera.

The Journey or Pimooteewin in the Cree language boasts a text by Tomson Highway. In this tale, Trickster and Eagle visit the land of the dead to bring back the departed spirits. The score by Melissa Hui is absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, Highway’s libretto is slight and can’t sustain the time.

One wonders what director/choreographer Michael Greyeyes could have done if the 45 minute opera had been fully staged. Instead, he had to cope with the Elmer Iseler Singers, who sang very well, but were standing with their books, although he did get them to stamp occasionally. Tenor Bud Roach as Trickster and soprano Xin Wang as Eagle were also on book, while Cara Gee as the gratuitous narrator spoke on one note. Roach has a bright clear sound, but Wang’s light voice had trouble coping with the high tessitura.

The glory was Hui’s gorgeous, evocative music conducted with great intelligence by Lydia Adams and performed by an excellent chamber ensemble. Teresa Przybylski’s prop and set conception was very imaginative, but Shawn Kerwin’s medieval costumes were mystifying.

In short, this ambitious undertaking was good musically but was lacking in other areas.

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