The Flight of the Hummingbird (Goulet, Yahgulanaas, Gilson; 2020 video release)
Matt Cooksey, Aug. 11, 2020
[…] The music in this opera is perhaps its finest feature, and I have to say that composer Maxime Goulet will be someone that I follow with strong interest. Goulet’s score doesn’t always shift seamlessly from one number to the next, but his music has a depth of feeling that is sometimes not present in children’s operas. There are some moments that are more grim than Hänsel & Gretel, as goofy as Barab’s Little Red Riding Hood, and complex and lyric as pieces like Lori Laitmain’s The Three Feathers. The fact that there were echoes of tribal drums in the beginning seems like the right amount of musical homage to the source material without drifting into inauthentic territory. Goulet simply does a wonderful job of capturing the energy of a character and giving them very indicative, emotive music without the libretto having to spell it out. This cast of singers – particularly van der Hooft and Schabas – does a great job of rendering this inventive score with personality and strong singing that doesn’t lean on childish or funny voices.
[…] The visual presentation of the opera led by the creative designs of Yahgulanaas and Gilson along with the stage direction of Glynis Leyshon is very sophisticated and is about as richly conceived as a touring children’s opera should be. The costumes make the animal qualities of each character bold and obvious, while also adhering to Yahgulanaas’ original ‘Haida-manga’ illustration style. The headpiece for Bunny was especially impressive in the group of costume pieces. The stage is made up of a forest of trees – which later have burned versions – and a central water source which later doubles as the globe map where characters make their entrances and exits throughout. During Bunny’s long chore aria, there is a colorful line of clothes that stretch from tree to tree that undoubtedly had to wow any children in attendance. For any designer that has a touring children’s opera on their docket, there are a lot of great strategies to borrow from this execution.
I hope that The Flight of the Hummingbird is able to resume touring performances in the next year or two, because it is founded on great tendencies in children’s opera literature and is paired with excellent music in a diverse group of styles. The cast size and makeup is perfectly traditional (SATB quartet) and the length is just about right. Whether performed in the United States or Canada, the message – even though it’s stated a little too plainly at times – would carry far with young audiences.