I have been very fortunate to see two great shows in these past few weeks. Both with Latin influence, yet very different. On the Saturday of Mother’s day weekend I went to see one of the final performances of Arrabal. A story told through dance, particularly tango as it is a story about Argentina’s past. This past Saturday I was lucky enough to go to the Canadian Opera Company’s Don Quichotte. Although sung in French it is loosely based on the Spanish novel Don Quixote by Cervantes, called the first modern novel.
The first, Arrabal, is made of a company from Argentina itself. Travelling around the world with their show, Arrabal tells the story of a teenage girl learning the truth about her father’s death in the Dictatorship in the country’s past. It is a touching story that used the back of the stage as a screen to project various backgrounds onto the stage. Although it was not necessarily a new or innovative technique, it was very well done. In a scene depicting the girl’s grandmother’s struggle of losing her only son, the back of the stage displayed the faces of only a short number of missing people due to the corrupt government. It explained through dance the struggle of a nation to try to recuperate who they are, as well as remember those who are lost.
An impactful moment was one of the few moment of speech in the show. It showed a news clip of a one of the mothers de la plaza de mayo and her showing her despair of not knowing what has happened to her loved one. She expressed that living or dead she wants to – she needs to know what has happened. She calls on the masses saying she has gone everywhere else to no avail, and as the woman with signs surround her the audience knows there are many like her; those who do not know where their children are, where they are buried, what happened to them.
In the midst of the tragic retelling of this horrible crime against humanity, there is a story of forgiveness and love. Arrabal forgives her father’s best friend who feels guilty about her father’s disappearance and death. It is as well a story of first love. Overall the moving story was both moving and fun to watch. The sad parts were sad, and the happy ones really lifted the audience. The end reveals the previous leader of the corrupt government being sentenced for his crimes and the characters celebrating that a murderer, a dictator, has been punished. The show ends in a dance party, but more than that the dancers reached out to the audience to bring them on stage celebrating with them, immersing them into the party. I have never seen a professional show end that way, where the audience is welcome on stage with the actors/dancers. I was able to get on stage with my family and take pictures with some of the bandmates and dancers.
The second show I went to see Don Quichotte was an opera. Naturally there was no welcoming onstage with a side of a dance party. It’s funny, I don’t think the opera gets as much recognition as it should. The COC offers great prices for students and those under 30 yet entering the building. You realise not enough students and recent grads take advantage of the opportunity. As mentioned the sow was sung and composed in its original French with a bit of Spanish influence. Real animals and children were used in the production, breaking the ever so famous phrase of never using children and animals on stage. Don Quichotte was both funny and tragic as the text where the story is based on.
Interestingly the stage was made of us large books, and large ink and feathers, as if was a metaphor for Don Quichotte’s so called insanity. If you don’t know anything about the original text, the story goes that after reading countless medieval stories about chivalry and knights Don Quixote himself believes himself to be a knight. However, as the story progresses, his illusionment becomes less about his sanity and more about hope. A true classic. The opera takes that and adds a story unknown to the original novel. Dulcinea is a character in the text but not like it is in the opera. In this version Duclinee (the French version of her name) is a major part of the story and her part is a large one making her the only lead female role in the production.
Overall, these two Toronto shows with Spanish influence made my spring worthwhile. Below there is more information. Don Quichotte is now playing, and unfortunately Arrabal has finished its run in Toronto.
Don Quichotte: http://www.coc.ca/PerformancesAndTickets/1314Season/DonQuichotte.aspx