L’affaire Minou: Auditioning Singers to Bring Art Song to Life
At the Majestic Theatre, we are always looking for new ways to throw a spotlight on the plentiful bounty of talented artists in our community. This coming Fall, one of those spotlight events will hit our stage in the form of L’affaire Minou – An Evening of Classical Art Song and Dance. And you have the chance to be a part of it next month as it holds auditions.
L’affaire Minou is the celebration of French child-poet Minou Drouet’s legacy and works. Born in 1947, Drouet wasted no time in taking to the arts. At eight years old, she wrote poetry beyond her years that astounded French academics. Due to her age, a number of French authors and publishers grew skeptical of her ability and claimed that her mother had been the true author of these great poems.
In order to find out the truth, Drouet was given a test. She was placed alone in a room and told to create works comparable to those that had gained such acclaim. It was during one of these tests that Drouet wrote her way into France’s Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers, proving that her talent was her own. She went on to tour France with her poetry and music.
Corvallis local and Majestic veteran Dean Kennedy stumbled upon her works and found himself compelled by her story. He started on a three decade long journey to set her work to music.
“I was introduced to a couple of the Drouet poems back in 1966.” Kennedy said. “For the next 30 some years, I worked off and on setting the poem “Music” for mixed chorus and the poem “Eyes” for soprano, clarinet and piano. In 2000, I found Minou’s book “First Poems” (pub.1956) at Powell’s Books in Portland. With her complete poetry in hand I selected an additional 11 of her poems to set to music. This project was completed in 2002 with minor revisions since then.”
Fast forward to 2016, where the Majestic Theatre is set to host a classic night of beautiful song and dance to honor Minou. But before we can stage this fantastic show, it needs a cast. That’s where you, the aspiring star of stage, come in.
Auditions will be hosted at the Majestic Theatre main stage on February 22nd and 23rd from 6 to 8 p.m. Dancers from Willamette Apprentice Ballet have already been chosen to accompany the music for the show, so we’re looking for any and all vocalists to come out and audition.
An audition pianist will be provided during auditions and vocalists are expected to come prepared with their own music to sing. Art songs and arias are recommended, while musical theater and modern pop music is discouraged.
We spoke with the senior creative crew for Minou to get their thoughts about the upcoming auditions and the show as a whole.
Vocal Director Bonnie Kousoulakis detailed the things she will be looking for in auditioners while pointing out the special opportunity that this show presents them.
“I care about vocal quality and that one is classically trained,” Kousoulakis explained. “The singers need to have poise, confidence, and be able to convey the vivid imagery in the songs. There aren’t a lot of opportunities to sing a world premiere in this town.”
Music Director Jim Martinez spoke about auditioners “being willing to convey the mood and the story, not just the notes in the music,” reminding vocalists that a good voice isn’t all that you need to succeed.
“We need a high level of musical and artistic talent from those involved, but a good cast are the ones who are really ‘present’ and able to add their energy and creative juices to the ensemble as a whole.” Martinez detailed. “It’s the whole ‘…better than the sum of the parts’ thing.”
Director Natalie Sullivan relishes in the opportunity to bring this fairly unknown story to the Corvallis community.
“Being a French teacher, I was surprised to have never heard of Minou Drouet and her impressive writings,” Sullivan said. “Her talent at such a young age — and the national suspicion of that talent being fake — is a fascinating story. When Dean first told me her story, I was immediately interested and am pleased we are able to bring her words to the stage. L’affaire Minou is a testament to the tremendous talent we have in our community, from composer to dancers to musicians to singers.”
Once the cast comes together, vocalists will get to work learning their music, rehearsing and singing the nights away before the performances come in the Fall. L’affaire Minou will be presented on the Majestic main stage on September 9, 10, & 11, 2016.
As composer, Dean Kennedy hopes his work, and the eventual cast of singers, will do Drouet’s poetry proud.
“The poems of young Minou are not simple nursery rhymes,” Kennedy said. “I hope that these vocal settings will present the feelings and sophistication of the 9 year old Minou Drouet phenomenon.”