I Will Fly Like a Bird is a chamber opera for two voices and six instruments composed by John Plant to a libretto by J. A. Wainwright. It deals with the story of Robert Dziekanski, a young Pole who was fatally tasered by police at Vancouver Airport in 2007. It’s not dramatic or angry. It’s more of an elegy recounting the hopes and aspirations of Robert and his mother who waits for him in Kamloops. It’s often very beautiful and very, very sad,
The two characters; Robert and his mother, are sung by baritone and soprano with support from string quartet, piano and clarinet. The music is tonal but quite modern in feel. There are certainly no concessions to musical theatre but it does have a few “songs” notably a drinking song. The music really feels apt for the story and is geared more to allowing the singers to convey the text than show off.
It was first performed at the Scotia Festival in Halifax in 2012 (which earned it a mention in Opera Canada‘s Best of the Decade feature.) It featured again in Thompson Street Opera’s Chicago season in 2019 where it was recorded. Two casts were used and recordings of both are on the album. The first cast features Nathaniel Hill and Jennifer Barrett; the second, Jonathan Wilson and Marissa Simmons. The instrumentalists are 1st violin- Robert Alvarado Switala, 2nd violin- Angelica D’Costa, viola – Kelsey Hanson, cello – John Rogler, Clarinet- Lilia Olsen and piano- Cody Michael Bradley. Alexandra Enyart conducts. Both sets of singers are very good. Barrett and Simmons have rather different timbres; the men are quite similar, so you can take your pick. There’s some really nice playing from the ensemble too.
I listened to MP3 versions of both casts. It sounds pretty decent. It’s not a Chandos super hi-def recording but it’s perfectly acceptable and it is a live recording with the artefacts that you would expect. Documentation is available and includes comprehensive notes and a full libretto though that’s really hardly necessary as the diction is excellent with both casts.
There’s some uncertainty right now about release dates and formats because, apparently, even the streaming services are affected by our viral friend. It does look like a digital only release early in June is likely. I’ll update as to dates and formats when I now more.