Julie, Monster: a Queer Baroque operaVisit Website
World Premiere of the full-length chamber opera in baroque, folk, blues, and rock styles sung in English and French. Julie, Monster tells the story of Julie d’Aubigny (ca. 1670-1707), gender nonconformist, duelist, opera star, muse, outlaw, and legend, who lived for adventure and died for love. The performances in December 2021 will be live in Richmond, Virginia, and via online streaming worldwide.
The term makes us think of big stomping creatures or morally depraved evildoers. Julie d’Aubigny is neither of those. In Julie’s era, to be a monster was to be one of a kind. A monster was so different from the normal as to seem supernatural.
According to a French dictionary from 1690, the monster inspires admiration in some, dread in others. This perfectly captures how Julie’s contemporaries reacted to the unbeatable swordswoman, mesmerizing singer, and uninhibited lover who dominated their fantasies and fears for a dozen years before disappearing into the shadows of history.
“Queer” as used by many in the LGBTQ+ community transforms a once-hurtful term, much as this opera reclaims the word "monster." We’re not the only ones joyfully embracing monsterdom. Others got there before us, including Lady Gaga, whose fans call themselves Little Monsters.
By embracing its literal meaning of difference while rejecting its connotation of inferiority, users invest queerness with pride and love. Queer also meets a semantic need. Precise words exist for people’s affective and sexual affinities and for their gender identifications. But these words can feel reductive, labeling a person as one thing only for all times and contexts. What word do you use for yourself if you are many things, or the things you are shift and won’t be pinned down?
In our opera, there is no better word than queer to describe Julie, a figure so unconventional that even terms like “pansexual,” “non-binary,” and “gender-fluid” seem confining. Queer describes the composition as well, with its riffs on musical genres and its blending of electronic and wood-and-gut soundscapes. Finally, it describes the cast of our premiere production, who represent a glorious array of identities, self-presentations, abilities, bodies, backstories and beliefs.
Niccolo Seligmann - composer
Raphael Seligmann - librettist
PJ Freebourn - Director
Todd LaBelle - Production Designer
Andrew Bonniwell -Lighting Designer
Cat Studdard - Dance Choreographer
Leslie Cook-Day - Costume Designer