Imagine Elvis Presley decided to take part in a Baroque opera and swapped genders! This is what Opera da Camera imagined when they presented a fresh and modern adaptation of G.F. Handel’s 18th century opera "Xerxes", for four performances from the 19st of February until the 1st of March at the majestic Rialto Theatre, 5723 Avenue du Parc, in Montreal.
In the original story, the Persian king Xerxes( Meagan Zantingh) is already engaged to princess Amastre (Danielle Vaillancourt), but has turned his affection towards Romilda (Frederique Drolet) who is already in love with his brother Arsamene (Kathrin Welte). To complicate matters further, Romilda's sister, Atalanta (Valerie Belanger), is also determined to make Arsamene hers...
Opera de Camera’s production does not take place in antique Persia as Handel originally set it, but instead stages the scene in a local Montreal female drag bar. The role of Xerxes, originally sung by a male castrato, is now performed by mezzo-soprano Meagan Zantingh, smartly dressed in drag as the King of Rock & Roll: Elvis Presley!
With numerous gender reversal “pants roles”, Opera da Camera created a daring production that boasts witty dialogues ( with several tweaks to the original script to fit Montreal’s current political and environmental situation), colorful sets, (including a flashy neon back light and a sparkly walk-through curtain), and several believable drag king costumes.
The members of the accompanying chamber ensemble, led by Conductor Christopher Hossfeld also participated in the costume folie by wearing original hats and costumes. From a musical point of view , it is interesting to note that the opening aria, "Ombra mai fu", sung by Xerxes to a plane tree is set to one of Handel's best-known melodies, and is often known as Handel's "Largo" .
To make the Xerxes experience modern and to encourage audience participation, some of the performers interacted with guests directly on the floor with hilarious techno jokes and banter. Attendees were invited to dress up and take Baroque/Elvis themed photos at their photo booth and a Baroque/Elvis/drag-themed costume contest is organized every evening.
“Since its foundation in 2011, Opera da Camera has been producing voice recitals that combine works of the classical and musical theater genres in order to promote accessibility and encourage an understanding of the sung art forms. In 2013, the company broadened its mandate to include complete operas on a yearly basis.
Xerxes continues its run at the Rialto Theater:
February 19, 21, 28 and March 1st *
*pre-opera talk session on March 1 at 1:45 p.m.
Tickets are $49, $34 and $20, and can be purchased by calling
(514) 770-7773 or (514) 790-1111/
For more information please consult the main website at :