Opera Prize 2021
ALEXINA B. © Raquel García-Tomás i
A new opera inspired by the story of an intersex person born in 1838, "Herculine Barbin dite Alexina B", whose testimony was brought to light by Foucault in 1978, showing the struggle for an identity between masculine and feminine, and the need to think more in terms of gender than of sex.
This opera is based on the story of Adélaïde Herculine Barbin, also known as Alexina, an intersex person born in 1838 (and at a time when intersex persons were called “hermaphrodites”). Alexina detailed her life in an extremely moving account written in 1868 called Mes souvenirs. At birth she was designated as female and grew up exclusively among girls: at first, she was in a convent and later as a young teacher in a boarding school. In this latter position, she fell in love with Sara, one of her fellow teachers. This romance shone through some years and led her to affirm herself as a man. And so her struggle began: first to make the church, science and the law accept that her gender as masculine. After many confessions before religious authorities, and many medical examinations, she was officially recognised as a man and changed her identity to be known as Abel Barbin. But this gender change did not bring her happiness and in her loneliness, Abel Barbin ended up committing suicide.
The libretto wishes to spotlight the need to think more in terms of gender than of sex, through the story of a person whose life is emblematic for today’s intersex community.
The feminine creative team (composer, librettist and stage director) is working from the very beginning of the creative process together, in order to ensure a strong and coherent interweaving of the -French- libretto, the musical composition, the staging and the video.
All three take up inspiration of the historical settings in a formal sense, as well as for the story board and the visual transposition towards a stunning actual context.
The fact that the composer is highly familiarized with video, and the stage director has a solid education in Fine Arts, guaranties an all over compact integration of the basic ingredients of the opera composition today.
The young age of all three facilitates a direct connection to the youngest generations.The composer Raquel García-Tomás and the stage director Marta Pazos have worked together in their former opera creation JE SUIS NARCISSISTE, creating not only an unanimously well-received opera, but have also marked trends, breaking with stereotypes of the contemporary music composition, and by creating a visual art work which has inspired from fashion designers to the younger composers generation. The author is not only a writer and poetess, but also mentors young composers at IRCAM about the way of melting words and music in an innovative way.
As feminine creative team all three are a vivid example of changing times and have become the idol of the young generation.
Raquel García Tomás