Tanya’s Secret is a queer-trans adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. It’s a production by Opéra Queens who seem to be a Montreal based group created during the pandemic and doing their first show in Toronto; in this case at the Betty Oliphant Theatre. Actually it’s not a particularly radical adaptation compared to, say, some of Against the Grain’s transladaptations. It’s sung in Russian (with some Ukrainian interpolations including a Lysenko art song) with subtitles on screens either side of the stage). The plot isn’t really changed at all though the ball scene in Act 3 gets a sort of drag queen competition element. The big change is that some roles are assigned to the “wrong” gender. Tatiana is sung extremely well and acted even better by Mike Fan. Catherine Carew is a strongly sung and impressive Gremin doubling as the very different Madame Larina. Christina Yun’s Lensky is ardent and she makes a nice fist of “Kuda, kuda”. (Who needs tenors?) Oddly this doesn’t really come across as all that radical. The necessary transpositions occasionally create the odd awkward high note but it’s very singable and generally well sung.
The non transposed roles are well cast with Georgios Iatrou as a passionate and strongly sung Onegin and Corinne DeJong as a very bouncy Olga. There are some neat cameos in the minor roles with Rain Senavinin as a particularly impressive Triquet. Piano accompaniment is skillfully provided by Cecilia Nguyen-Tran and Tina Faye.
Staging, directed by Bridget Ramzy, is fairly simple. The stage is bare with just a few props; chairs, tables etc that can be carried on and off by the cast and a small stage crew as necessary. The lighting (Mikael Kangas) is atmospheric. The blocking is efficient with a bit of humour in the Act 3 ball scene. Overall it’s an enjoyable, surprisingly unsurprising, Onegin. There’s one more chance to see the show at 3pm on Sunday. Check OperaQueens.ca for details.
I’ve been wondering whether and how Toronto’s indie scene was going to return to live performance. I keep hearing about films and streams but not much about real live opera. So it’s really nice to see someone prepared to put on a live three hour long show after all the 45-60 minute pandemic efforts. It really is time. Everyone I talk to (admittedly at theatres) has had it with on-line content. So three cheers to Opéra Queens.
Photo credits: Elana Emer