The Librettist’s comments
Questions to the librettist, His Honour Herménégilde Chiasson
What was your first reaction when asked to write the libretto for “Traversées”?
I was very intrigued
by the request to write a libretto for an opera. I have always been interested
in this form of music from the time I was a child. It caught my interest and
without knowing why I listened to the opera on Saturday that originated from
the Metropolitan Opera of New York. Later on my brother let me listen to
excerpts from ‘Carmen’ or the grand choruses of Verdi that I had obtained
through the Angel record club. Later on it was in
Had you written a libretto previous to the writing of “Traversées”?
It is quite obvious that I had never written anything that is in any way like a libretto for an opera. I had read a copy, like everyone else, of the songs to be performed, especially when an opera was written in a foreign language. This coupled with the sensitivity, at a cinema, would have created a superproduction. I then went to the library in order to become informed about how I would adapt the stories to the opera because, even if I have written many things for the theatre, the two forms of writing are completely different. It took me a long time to decide and to make up my mind as to how I would write this request, which is typical of most operas.
How did you approach the writing? In other words, what was the order in which you addressed the writing?
The opera was to be
produced during the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the settlement of
In revisiting your history, what emotions directed you?
It is quite evident that the story, for all Acadians interested in their identity, stirs up mixed emotions and sometimes contradictions. As far as I am concerned, I have always believed that whatever happened in the past, it is necessary to take advantage of it, learn from these lessons and not to dwell on sources of conflict and bitterness. There are too many painful examples where ancestral hate is degenerated in conflicts for which people bear the cost for several generations. I also wished to avoid the trap of misery and show the courage of our descendants. In other respects I also wished to show the celebrations part of our history and with those who are disinterested to show the tragic dimension of the distance covered. As one can see, things are never as they appear and these slight changes are revealed when one is interested in the truths that history shows us.
Please tell us about The Angel.
The structure of ‘Traversées’ constitutes a sort of collage consisting of five different time periods. It was necessary then to find a bond to unite these diverse episodes. I then thought about a figure that would be the voice of destiny and that would appear periodically to act as an official counselor, protector and messenger, one who constitutes the principal functions devoted to the angels in the sacred texts.
When you saw the staged production of “Traversées”, what was your emotion/reaction?
At the time I saw the production, I arrived from l’Ile
Ste-Croix where we froze like never before, during the whole month of June. It
rained the whole day of official celebrations to the point where I had to
change five times during the day. I then left
On a strictly personal level, I agree with many people who were there that the music was very moving and the scope of its magnitude, its magisterial interpretation by the orchestra, the staging and the voices of the singers and chorus were very suited to the subject and the faith that these characters had in their mission and their subsequent drama. I agree though that, first and foremost among the people involved in this project, the name of Ludmila Knezkova-Hussey must have a special mention because she was the person behind many functions, the most important being that of the composer, the person who generated the music which is the most important element of that kind of production. The composer, when it comes to an opera, contrary to theatre, is the person who carries most if not all the authorship. Can you name the librettist of “La Traviata” or “Carmen”? But we all know that they are operas by Verdi and Bizet. This opera is by Ludmila Knezkova-Hussey and her accomplishments must be commended both as an organizer and mainly as a composer who gave great strength and a musical dimension fitting the drama, the event and the perenniality of this 400th anniversary of the settlement of the Acadians, the first Europeans north of Florida.