The Girl King: fate at the dawn of modernity

Actualités lyriques

By Communications et marketing

January 23, 2024

Text: Véronique Gauthier

Photo: Tam Lan Truong

They are working together for the first time, and yet their symbiosis is immediately evident. Throughout our conversation, they relayed, facilitated, and completed each other’s statements and reflections. We would happily be a fly on the wall to hear their many exchanges about art! They offered us a glimpse of these exchanges around their work on the upcoming Opéra de Montréal production.

Here are the playwright and librettist Michel Marc Bouchard and theatre director Angela Konrad, who joined forces for La Reine-garçon.


Their mutual artistic admiration is plain to see. “One of the first plays I saw when I came to Montreal was Michel Marc’s Tom à la ferme. He shaped my arrival here,” recalled the German-born director. “We have never worked together, but it sure feels like we have!” the author added. “There truly is an intuitive symbiosis between us.”

It was incidentally Michel Marc who suggested Angela join the creative team for the adaptation to opera of his play Christine, la reine-garçon. “She is perfect for the piece. Not only do I really like her work, but I feel there is a special affinity between her and the character of Christina. It’s wonderful when a project becomes an extension of the individual.”


For these two firmly established artists in the theatre milieu, this was by no means a first foray into opera. La Reine-garçon is Michel Marc’s third libretto, after Les Feluettes in 2016 (another adaptation of one of his plays) and La Beauté du monde in 2022. Meanwhile, Angela’s portrayal of the historical figure of Christina, Queen of Sweden, is pursuant to her operatic staging of the famous author Marguerite Yourcenar in 2022.

What made them both want to return to the opera after an initial opera production? “I find that opera affords us something much greater than ourselves,” the playwright explained. “The moment it starts, I completely forget that it was I who wrote it. The composer’s and director’s share in the final text is enormous, so there is this whole element of the unknown that captivates and delights me.”

“The emotional power conveyed through the music and through the performers’ artistry brings something of the order of excess and extravagance that outstrips the dramatic effect of live theatre,” added Angela. “The music in opera conveys a superhuman and supernatural dimension.”


For this director accustomed to building the architecture of her plays based on her work with actors, one of the major differences in opera concerns time management.   

“In theatre, liveness creates the machine, while in opera, liveness gets integrated into the machine. I only meet the soloists very late in the process, so there is all this pre-conceptualization work to do beforehand. I need to quickly make decisions so I can put together an initial layout. And there are often surprises: it’s fine to work in tandem with the score, but liveness generates dynamics that you just can’t detect on paper. So you just let yourself become saturated by what goes on in the rehearsal room and have little time to work it all out. That’s both the danger and the beauty of it.”


In this historical narrative, Queen Christina, who is torn between her reason and her heart, who is rapt with passion for her first lady-in-waiting, attempts to illuminate the stirrings of her mind. How is it that this story set in the 17th century resonates so powerfully today?

For Michel Marc, “There is something in Christina’s Enlightenment-era desires that is highly contemporary. She speaks about things that every nation should uphold: curiosity, knowledge, art, education.” “Descartes is also in the picture,” chimed in Angela. “Christina asks all the questions of Descartes’s investigations, she embodies them, she lives and breathes them. Am I the subject of my actions, of my desire? Of my life, of my fate? This is the advent of a universal “I” who embodies the problems of action and intention. It’s all there. It’s the cradle of modernity.”

What is love? And how can we eradicate it? “The torment Christina experiences with her feelings of love are not about the political constraints or social customs of the time. It is because love is something that eludes her in her quest of free will,” the author explained.

Turning her back on a stifled society, our heroine opted for the wealth of the mind. “And that is very, very powerful,” asserted the director. “Those are universal values that surpass any current issues. They arise in all parts of the world and in all eras.”

Christina’s fate will resound at the Place des Arts’ Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier this coming February 3, 6, 8, and 11. “Featuring a stellar cast,” beamed our librettist who brought Christina to life in theatre, in film, and now in opera. Click here to purchase your tickets.