Manitoba Underground Opera (MUO) has a way of reinterpreting the classics: taking lesser heard, rarely staged productions and giving them a new voice for a modern audience.  


In the midst of their Odyssey 2023 season, the company continues to take the path less travelled, transporting audiences back to the French Baroque with a production of Jean-Phillipe Rameau’s opera Castor et Pollux.  

“This is the (opera) that started the ‘odyssey’ theme,” says MUO General Manager Brendan McKeen.  

Telling the ancient Greek tale of brothers Castor – who is killed in battle – and Pollux – an immortal who goes down to the underworld to save his sibling – the story is an epic tale of sacrifice, bravery, and familial love.   

“It’s truly about the journeys of the two of them being separated and coming back together,” says McKeen. “It’s definitely an odyssey... not a trip down the street.” 

In keeping with MUO's tradition of breaking boundaries, the heroic twins, originally written as male and sung by a tenor and bass, will be performed by sopranos Nikita Labdon and Paulina Gonzalez.   

“Having two totally different voice types... has been quite the challenge but it has been so fun,” says Labdon, who makes her MUO title character debut as Castor.  
Though it sits in the soprano passaggio (the transition area between the vocal registers), surprisingly there hasn’t been too much of an adjustment for Labdon to sing the tenor line – apart from the odd octave drop because “no one wants to hear a soprano screaming As for half a page.”  

It isn’t quite the same story for her counterpart, Paulina Gonzales, who tackles the bass role of Pollux.   

“Bass stuff sits quite low, and if you transpose it up an octave, it's still quite low,” explains Labdon. “So, it has been fun for her to kind of dig into how basses would perform.”  

Manitoba Underground Opera celebrates a made-in-Manitoba lineup for this production in terms of cast and creative team.  

“It’s basically like we took a French Baroque opera and covered it in honey dill sauce,” says McKeen.  

Led by music director and pianist Shannon Hiebert, the cast also includes Geneva Halverson (Phebe), Hailey Witt (Telaire), Paul Forget (Jupiter), Melanie Dupuis (Cleone / Une Suivante d'Hebe / Une ombre heureuse) and Wes Rambo (Grand Priest / Mercury).

MUO's Castor et Pollux is adapted and realized by Canadian stage director Adam Da Ros, returning to MUO for a fourth stint following original adaptations of The Marriage of Figaro (2022) at Club 200, Dido and Aeneas (2019) at Broadway Neighbourhood Centre, and Idomeneo (2017) at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Adding to the already dramatic backdrop of St. Boniface Cathedral will be projections by jaymez, an internationally lauded lighting, video and sound designer.  

“They’ll be 70 feet tall and 60 feet wide covering the entire façade of the cathedral,” beams McKeen.  

Castor et Pollux runs from August 22 through 25, beginning at 8 pm. For tickets and more details, visit:  

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