By Kristi Alexandra
It’s a story that everybody knows and a woman no one remembers, as the tagline goes. For those living the horror of having loved ones among the 1,200 missing and murdered women in Canada, the world debut of Missing – a libretto opera by Indigenous director and musician Marie Clements – will help close a chapter by opening a new one.
“The story of Missing can’t answer the questions I’ve been asking my whole life, but I am hoping it will join other voices who are asking the same questions, telling their stories, and demanding an end to what should be unfathomable,” Clements, who brought us The Road Forward at DOXA earlier this year, says.
Set between Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and BC’s notorious Highway of Tears, this deeply-moving drama follows the tale of two young women, one Indigenous and one not, whose lives become tragically intertwined.
Melody Courage, a Métis Canadian coloratura soprano, plays the lead character of the unnamed woman – a spirit trying to find her way home.
“She does have an identity,” Courage tells Loose Lips over the phone. “The way that I interpret it and feel it is because her body hasn’t been discovered yet, so she’s not named. But I also feel that because she’s unnamed, it represents the 1,200 women who have gone missing and murdered. I feel like she represents that bigger picture.”
The opera is sung partially in English and partially in Gitxsan, with a fluent Gitxscan speaker and singer coaching the players.
“It’s important to learn,” Courage says, “so he’s been helping us manipulate the words to make them more singable…. The words and the music, you let them speak to add a layer of building and delivering the story.”
And the story, Courage is quick to note, is not a tragedy.
“It’s about the message and educating people, and changing people’s minds and perception,” Courage proclaims through tears. “[The story] is told on a different platform for the first time, to access more people and more ears so there can be more voices, too.”
Missing plays November 3, 7, 9 & 11 at 8 p.m., and November 5 at 2 p.m. at The York Theatre, City Opera Vancouver.
Kristi Alexandra is an unabashed wino and wannabe musician. Her talents include drinking an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon, singing in the bathtub, and falling asleep.