Out Loud is a feminist exploration of two well-known characters — Titania, Queen of the Night, from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Little Mermaid, best known in Hans Christian Anderson’s telling. This diptych explores the possibilities of solo multimedia performance for voice, with broad appeal across contemporary classical, opera and theatrical audiences.
Out Loud is a collaboration with two singers who specialize in creating new staged vocal performances, often solo works: Helen Pridmore and Jennifer Beattie.
Soprano Helen Pridmore is as much at home in contemporary scored music, experimental music and improvisation. She has extensive experience with multimedia opera, working with electronics and solo performance. I have known and admired Helen’s work since 2006, and in 2018, her performance of Sokolovic’s Love Songs at the Now Hear This Festival in Edmonton inspired this collaboration: her capacity to morph from one character to another not only in her vocal production and techniques, but also in her entire stage presence and affect was striking. In Out Loud, she has created the Solstice Queen, reimagining Titania’s fairy and dream world.
Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Beattie performs both classical and brand-new repertoire, such as the sonic meditation and theatrical experience she co-created with Juraj Kojš and Adam Marks entitled Black Queen. I had the pleasure of seeing Jennifer perform this role and was struck by her enveloping, mesmerizing and enormous presence and facility in inhabiting multimedia situations. The inspiration for the Mermaid came largely from Jennifer, whose desire was to invert the preconceptions we have about the character as being small, demure and almost entirely focused on submission.
With Out Loud, each character offers a contemporary feminine perspective on their story, using voice, electroacoustic sound and video. The staging involves simple scenic elements and props that are simple to travel with and to set up, augmented by video projection and electroacoustic sound.
The video element was devised and filmed in the summer of 2019, on Ile Audet in the Appalachian Hills of Quebec, where I have made a number of films that feature in my creative work. I am privileged to have access to this small patch of boreal forest and shoreline: a forest bower that I made is the setting for Solstice Queen and the shoreline and water hosts the Mermaid. Although only the two characters are on the video, the audio recordings include the voices of an off-camera chorus that responds and accompanies.
During the performance, both characters inhabit the stage with videos of themselves in the natural environment and interact with these virtual versions of themselves in various ways. There are minimal ceramic props, including a crown for Solstice Queen and oyster gems for the Mermaid.
They each sing in their own language – the Solstice Queen in a fairy tongue and the Mermaid in a mer-idiom – and their words and utterances are subtitled in the video.
Terri Hron: direction, electronics, sound and video editing, forest sets, ceramic props, chorus
Helen Pridmore: voice, text, costumes
Jennifer Beattie: voice, text, costumes
Philip Fortin: camera, costumes, chorus
Tiago de la Rosa Cabreira: costumes, chorus
WL Altman: chorus