In March 2020, artist Gérald Kurdian (they/them) suddenly felt memories of their childhood resurfacing. Unpleasant memories. Of abuse. After the initial shock, they resolved to delve headlong into the question of how power games affect sexuality and what the results of this might be.
Conversations with therapists, activists and theorists would follow in the subsequent months, providing much-needed insights and answers. Kurdian wrote about these encounters, documented them with smartphone photos and videos or recorded the conversations in audio format.
This transformative journey reminded Kurdian of ancient epics full of monstrous battles, eroticism and divine revelations. They chanelled all this into an auto-fictional libretto that’s a cross between Final Fantasy VII, John Waters' 'Polyester', Guillaume Dustan’s 'Je Sors ce Soir' and Ovid's Metamorphoses. A gonzo libretto, as Kurdian likes to call it.
Kurdian mapped the accumulated documentation onto a virtual 3D island in the shape of a sleeping body: a hybrid online database that’s part video game, part archive and part carte de tendre (a French map of an imaginary country, with a geography based entirely on the theme of 'love').
‘X ! (un opéra fantastique)' is the musical adaptation of this gonzo libretto: a tour of Kurdian's memory in its virtual form and a flamboyant portrait of the revolutionary individuals who inhabit it. The protagonist is a hallucinated version of Kurdian, a welcoming 'Mother of Ceremonies' in platform shoes who grabs the microphone to share her story. She’s a character straight out of the club scene – appropriate since clubs often still serve as safe havens for minorities.
With 'X! (un opéra fantastique)', Kurdian plays with hierarchies (minority voices vs. dominant voices), conventions from classical opera (women dying in silence, the inescapability of fate, etc.) and alternative mythologies. With this manifesto, Kurdian underlines the importance of care, attentive listening and collective fictions for our shared future.
Warning: some scenes of this show are sexually explicit and deals with themes of inferred sexual assault. This performance is suitable for 18+.
Concept, muziek en performance: Gérald Kurdian - choreografie: Jennifer Lacey - licht design: Joseph Wegman - kostuums: Gérald Kurdian & ESACM - ondersteuning bij het schrijven van het libretto: Kopano Maroga - audio techniek: Justine Herbert - ontwikkeling 3D eiland: Thibaut Rostagnat - ontwikkeling artificial intelligence: Fabrice Gallis - coproductie: Kaaitheater (BE), VIERNULVIER (BE), Ménagerie de Verre (FR), Festival d’Automne à Paris (FR), Théâtre 13 / Paris (FR), T2G / Gennevilliers (FR) - partners: BUDA (BE), La Pop (FR), Antre Peaux (FR), Coopérative de Recherche ESACM (FR) & DOCH - University of the Arts (SE).