en
One is not born a woman
Through literary texts and music Katrine Horn and Rachël Esmoris stage Simone de Beauvoir's well known aphorisme : 'One is not born a woman, one becomes one'.
Imagination, humour and drama oscillate between the auditive, the visual and the olfactory senses, between the sensory and the intellectual faculties. Each fragrance has been developped to correspond to the female archetype in question and thus participates in the creation of a highly feminine atmosphere; an atmospfhere that bridges the gap between the Individual and the Universal, between men and women.
The same eclectic diversity can be found in the solo harp pieces where different kinds of music mixes, works by women as different as Louise Charpentier, a self-taught composer who ignored the conventions of any period, and Henriette Renié, a pure product of the Paris Conservatoire and one of the first women to be admitted into its composition class. Differing perspectives of the condition of women are thus showcased through costumes, lighting, and the types of music that range from a classical and abstract form such as in Marguerite douloureuse au rouet by Albert Zabel to a more concrete and narrative one as in that of Mein Herr by John Kander and Fred Ebb.
The show evolves around the harp, symbol of femininity, enabling us to catch a glimpse of the various shades of the feminine sphere of our world, resolutely at ease with itself. The harp, an expressive and impressive instrument, creates a counterpoint which plays with the so-called masculines values. Will the two ever find a common ground?
The show
The show opens on an air by Chopin thus allowing the audience to make the acquaintance of Lavinia, a young widow created by George Sand in her eponymous novel. Unconventional and weary of the scheming world Lavinia refuses a suitor. The scene closes with Hexentanz, The Witches' Dance, by Clara Schumann-Wieck, wife of the famous composer Robert Schumann. This is the first but not the last witch to tread the stage ! Another sorceress to be conjured up is Margaret, Faust 's mistress, in Sad Margaret at the Spinning Wheel, a piece for solo harp by Albert Zabel. She is patiently awaiting her lover but he has sold his soul to the Devil!

Nothing like it for Charlotte Brontë's heroine Jane Eyre who refuses to subject herself to a man's authority. Rebellious and indignant she exposes the inequities that women of her time endured. Rhapsodie, by Louise Charpentier, also bears witness to a courageous woman : harpist by profession, lacking recognition in her field, she left Paris to travel across France in a caravan with her harp! As a self-taught composer, unabashed, she created Rhapsodie, a spirited bravura piece with perhaps more sensibility than sense. Who can blame her?

Then along comes Nora who is leaving her husband Thorvald (played by Rachël Esmoris and Pierre Lavie) in a scene taken from A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, mimed and set to music with an extract from Madame Butterfly, opera by Puccini. For a long time A Doll's House was banned from Europe's stages because at the time of its première in 1896, it was simply unthinkable for a woman to leave not only her husband (something that came close to the unacceptable) but also her children! Nora was a real witch and at a different time in history would have been banned from society or burned at the stake. She leaves her husband to become an adult thus refusing the rôle of woman-doll her husband had intended her for.

The brillance of the Danse des Lutins, the Goblins' Dance, by Henriette Renié, interrupts Nora's passion. Henriette was master of her art. She was one of the first women to be admitted into the composition class at the Paris Conservatoire. She was an outstanding harpist and a gifted composer who nevertheless at times « chose » to take care of her mother instead of pursuing her career. She played by the rules, both literally and figuratively speaking, in her personal life as well as in the art of composition.

With the help of Simone, yes, Simone de Beauvoir, everything slides into place thanks to an interview, generously put at our disposal by Radio Canada. Exit Simone, enter frivolity! Joy, exhilaration and pretty underwear take over the stage to provide us with a moment of fun and laughter. The laughter lingers on in Les Amis de Monsieur, a song by Harry Fragson and Eugène Héros which explores lover/mistress relations that take a surprising turn.

Anaïs Nin, capricious and free of social convention, has left us her diaries in which she discloses, or invents, everything, yes, absolutely everything!

Mein Herr, a song by John Kander and Fred Ebb illustrates Anaïs's point of view and offers us another view of a free woman. In contrast, the character who follows is trapped in some man's fantasy and loses her bearings. Is there hope for the two sexes? Will they ever meet on common ground ?

The closing song, La belle addition by Irénée Grulman, could make us doubt the answer. But in the end it all falls into place : the answer is a resounding YES !