from Emily, The Way You Are

A one-woman chamber opera about the life and work of Emily Carr
Lyrics by Di Brandt, musical score by Jana Skarecky
Excerpts from the Toronto premiere (April 2008):
Ramona Carmelly, mezzo soprano, and Gary Kulesha conducting the Talisker Players

Opening Scenes




Download D'Sonoqua

She rides the wind high
She dances with lightning
Her hair glitters with molten serpent scales
Her breasts are the black beaks
of screeching eagles
From her flaming mouth roars
the voice of the shuddering mountain
Kwakwaka'wakw Halkomelem Lillooet Tsimshian
She grasps in her great black wooden hands
the skulls of vanquished men
the feathery spines of dead children
D'Sonoqua D'Sonoqua
Wild Wild Wild Woman
of the forest, of the mountain,
of the great red cedar,
She holds up the turbulent indigo sky
Wild Woman Wild Woman
of the writhing slithering
roiling chlorophyll sea......


THE SISTERS (sitting, pouring tea, twittering, in demure lamplight):

Download The Sisters

O dear O dear O dear
Have you heard, have you heard, have you heard?
Isn't it absurd, isn't it absurd, isn't it absurd?
Every evening, every morning, every day
Paint on the ceiling, on the floor, behind the door
What will people say, what will people say, what will people say?
O dear O dear O dear
Paper canvas leather, wood in every weather
Daddy will be mad, daddy will be mad, daddy will be mad
Ladies don't behave this way
What will people say, what will people say, what will people say?

EMILY [stomping about, [as if] waving umbrella stick]:

I will NOT, I will NOT, I will NOT
pour tea in the living room
for Daddy
[speaks:] and the stiffnecked ladies of Victoria.
I will NOT play the little woman
for that pompous arrogant man.

[sings:] I will NOT smile and simper,
curtsy flutter whisper whimper
for the citizens and my sisters
I will NOT play the little woman
for that awful brutal horrible man.


WILLIE (William Locke Paddon, ship's purser, gallant, imaginative):

Download Willie


What about me? I love you
just the way you are.
Those laughing eyes, that slightly sneering smile
The light around your hair
The way you walk, the way you talk
The way you lock your arms
against your heaving chest
I could build you a house
I could buy you a horse
See, I've brought you a fish
a diamond, a fancy glass dish
You're a goddess, Emily,
a garden, a fountain, a queen.
What about me?
I love you, Emily Carr,
I love you, just the way you are.


The way I am, Willie, is fierce.
The way I am, Willie, is bitter.
The way I am is far-sighted and angry
The way I am is alone.

I am a warrior not a queen
I am a fire not a hearth
I am a turbulent rushing stream
I am a mountain lion cub
(crouched behind a boulder)
sharpening her little claws
I am a forest not a garden
I am a warrior not a queen.

O Willie, can't you see, can't you see,
I can't stay here and marry you.
Victoria is a stifling staid
half asleep cud chewing cow
My sisters and their friends
are silly chattering crows

The men of this town
not you, not you
are big boring brutes
who want to cut everything
everyone down


What about me, Emily Carr,
What about me?
I love you
just the way you are.

EMILY (shaking her head):

I have to get out of here.
I have to keep my vision clear.
O Willie, can't you see, can't you see,
I can't come with you and play house.

I am a trembling aspen leaf
I am a terrified mouse.
The light falling through the trees,
The wind's sharp keening
The Nuh-Chah-Nulth grandmothers
drying nets on the sand
are calling me.

Emily, the Way You Are premiered at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario, in April 2008, with Ramona Carmelly, mezzo-soprano, Gary Kulesha, conductor, and the Talisker Players. Di Brandt holds a Canada Research Chair in English and Creative Writing at Brandon University. Jana Skarecky is Associate Composer at the Canadian Music Centre. Ramona Carmelly is a well-known mezzo-soprano, who has performed in numerous operas in Canada and internationally. Gary Kulesha is an internationally renowned composer who has just been named finalist for the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts for 2009. The Talisker Players is a professional chamber music ensemble founded in 1995.

Di Brandt —
Jana Skarecky —
Ramona Carmelly —
Gary Kulesha —
The Talisker Players —
Canadian Music Centre —

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