Elsewhereless (1998) was commissioned by Vancouver New Music Society through the Canada Council. It was co-produced with Tapestry Opera (Toronto) and the National Arts Centre (Ottawa) and given 35 staged performances. It was the first Canadian opera to be performed at the NAC since 1969. Excerpts of the opera were performed by the Nieuw Ensemble (Amsterdam), Ensemble Orphée (Rome), and Aventa (Victoria).
There exists between the person I am and the person I want to be, a vast space filled with terror.
Beth, a young diplomat, and her husband Andrew are stationed at a Canadian embassy in Africa. They are troubled by news of political upheaval, forced migrations and indiscriminate slaughter. They invite the ambassador, Antoine Nero, to dinner in an attempt to convince him to close the embassy. For reasons of his own, the ambassador refuses.
Beth and Andrew learn that Malcolm, the residence's housekeeper, was also housekeeper to the ambassador and his partner ten years earlier when the country was a sleepy diplomatic backwater. At that time, Malcolm's dream was to attend a university "elsewhere" and then to return to his country to play a major role in its golden future. His dream was encouraged by the ambassador's partner, Eugene, who befriends, instructs and eventually traps Malcolm in a complex triangle of loyalty and betrayal.
The ambassador's delay in writing a letter of recommendation destroys Malcolm's opportunity and ultimately his dream. Now, some years later, with his partner dead and his sanity questionable, the ambassador does not want to close the embassy - no matter what the danger to him or his staff. He, finally, is at the centre of attention: the eyes of the world are on the approaching conflagration.
Trapped and frightened, Beth and her husband begin to realize that they are being held hostage to the ambassador's ego. Bodies are piling up at their door. The night skies are full of strange and violent sounds. The opera escalates to its bloody climax at the dinner party intended to persuade the Ambassador to depart. Malcolm the impotent silent watcher, finally steps into his destined role.
Elsewhereless moves back and forth in time over the course of ten years.
Over these ten years - represented in twelve scenes - five characters are observed as they learn a language, fall in love, create elab
orate fantasies and witness a country fall apart in an orgy of genocide and massacre.
This is a story about colonialism and self-determination - in relationships, states and states of mind.
- Atom Egoyan
Original Cast and Production Team
Antoine: Benoit Boutet, tenor; Eugene: Willy Grenzberg, baritone; Malcolm: Marcus Nance, bass-baritone; Beth: Fides Krucker, mezzo; Andrew: Curtis Sullivan, baritone.
Set, Film and Costume Designer: Phillip Barker; Lighting Designer: Paul Mathissen; Music Director: Wayne Strongman, conductor (Toronto, Ottawa), Owen Underhill (Vancouver).