Medusa’s Children is a location shot opera film recently released by Opera Q; a Toronto based collective “dedicated to amplifying queer and trans voices”. I think this is the company’s second production following the live staged Dido and Belinda in 2019. This new piece; music by Colin McMahon, text by Charlie Petch, is also on a classical theme. In fact it follows Ovid pretty closely (at least for the back story) and of course there’s a queer twist.
We are in the household of Medusa’s immortal sisters Stheno and Euryale who are looking after Medusa’s children Pegasus; a non-binary winged horse, and Chrysaor a definitely male sword wielding golden (literally) boy. They are the product of the rape by Poseidon (that made Athena so jealous that she turned Medusa’s hair into snakes) and they sprang from Medusa’s neck when Perseus killed her.
Chrysaor is a whisky drinking pain in the ass obsessed with his own masculinity, determined to track down his father Poseidon and much given to goading Pegasus about their sexuality. Euryale conveniently keeps a lock of Medusa’s hair to turn him temporarily to stone when needs must. Chrysaor goes off to find Poseidon and recover Medusa’s head. Poseidon basically tells him to get lost as he has loads of sons and they are way more heroic than Chrysaor but, yeah, he can have the head. Chrysaor repents of his toxic masculinity and makes his peace with Pegasus and his aunties as well as his temporarily resurrected mother. Everybody (except Medusa because she’s dead) agrees to live happily after after in a non-binary household where pronouns are respected.
It’s a bit didactic and at times the text seems a bit clunky but mostly it works pretty well. The words are singable and there’s some humour to lighten things up. The score helps. It’s busy and colourful and actually gives the singers something to work with. The performances are excellent. I really like the contrast between the two sisters; Stheno sung by Rachel Miller in a brightish mezzo contrasting with Renee Fajardo’s rather fruity soprano. The acting of these two; singly and jointly, is effective and occasionally quite funny. Rebecca Gray does the teenage pain in the ass thing really well and has interesting music. It gets less petulant along with the character but certainly early on they make one want to give them a good kick in the backside. Hilary Jean Young is touching as the much put upon winged horse. Miller manages a complete transformation to become the snotty Poseidon when required. And then there’s Rebecca Cuddy as Medusa. It’s really quite a performance going through a wide range of moods from anger to despair to tenderness. It’s very well done.
Direction is by Lauren Halasz with Stephen Bell directing the cameras. The interior scenes are nicely staged and the outdoor work is at times stunning. I think it was shot in the Humber Valley with the bridge at Old Mill in the background but I could be wrong. Costumes and props are well thought out but the makeup by Simmie Patoka is just stunning.
This one is hosted on Youtube so technical quality is as good as one would wish. It’s available in 4K (for those with serious bandwidth) but I watched in 1080p which was just fine. You’ll need a code to watch which is available by donation here. It’s available until June 30th.
It’s funny how the old stories still work to tell contemporary ones. I don’t suppose Augustus Caesar would have approved of the subject matter (but then he was no fan of Ovid in general) but the myth does make an effective carrier for the message that Opera Q is trying to put out.