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A Synonym for Love — An Opera that Moves

I am super excited to witness Volcano Theatre’s radical site specific take on an obscure cantata by Handel, set in the historic Gladstone (Art) Hotel, one of the cultural hubs of the westside of Toronto. The piece stages a contemporary bisexual love triangle and promises to move us both emotionally and physically as we follow the characters through the space.

Here is a blurb from Volcano Theatre’s website:

“Three guests are staying at the historic Gladstone Hotel in Toronto – one of the most beautiful boutique hotels in the city. A woman is at the bar ordering drinks. A man is waiting at a table for her to return. She looks at him, and sings of her love. Another woman – who has just checked in, and who also happens to be the first woman’s lover – enters. She sees the couple, and, enraged, storms out, and up to her room.

This is the beginning of our love triangle. In our version, the two sopranos remain women – one is gay, one is bisexual. The man is straight, and feeling threatened. Everyone is at the same hotel. They all sing like angels.

The audience is initially seated at tables scattered through the ballroom, and – as the opera progresses – they follow a specific singer through the hotel. “Staff” will guide them from location to location, as they pursue their character.


The opera will be sung in a new English version by award-winning writer, and internationally recognized theatre maker Deborah Pearson. This libretto is created specifically for the production at the Gladstone setting. We have rearranged the score so that each of the three audience tracks will allow for every audience member to understand the whole story, but to spend more time with one character, and thus be immersed in that character’s point of view. So – every single ticket sold will be specific to one of the three characters. Each audience member will follow that character for the next 80 minutes, making, in effect, three audiences that weave through the hotel. The audiences will meet whenever there are duets or trios, or whenever one character is eavesdropping on another. These scenes will happen in stairways, in bedrooms, hallways and bathrooms. The characters will need a drink, and go to the bar, they will need some air, and escape to the alley. The finalé will occur back in the ballroom (the same room from the beginning of the opera), and a truce of sorts will be made, with each other, and with life.”

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Carla Melo’s artistic research explores the encounter of popular/political and avant-garde traditions. Through physical theatre, devising and structured improvisation, her work seeks to push boundaries between performance, audiences and public sites. She was the co-founder and co-director of the former Corpus Delicti Butoh Performance Lab, a group of “movers” whose performative protest was highly visible in the streets, malls, cemeteries of Los Angeles, from 2003 to 2008. Melo’s performance work has been seen in venues such as Highways Performance Space, REDCAT and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Her book in progress, Squatting Dystopia: Performing [Dis]placement in Contemporary Brazil, explores the intersections of environmental and site-specific theatre, visual culture and issues of socio-spatial justice. Her writings have been published in The Drama Review, Latin American Theatre Review, Theatre Journal, Latin American Cultural Studies and e-misferica, among others.

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