I will fly like a bird

6/28/20122 min read

In June 2009 I received an e-mail from Halifax poet and novelist J. A. Wainwright; he'd written the text for a song cycle on the Robert Dziekanski tragedy. (Dziekanski was the Polish immigrant who was moving to Canada to live with his mother; he was fatally tasered by RCMP officers at Vancouver Airport, after a heartbreaking series of misadventures and failures of communication. (Those who want to know more about the incident are directed to the thorough, dispassionate and devastating Braidwood Report, commissioned from the B.C. government, available at http://www.braidwoodinquiry.ca/report/P1Report.php/)

The story is told entirely through the imagined voices of Robert and his mother. When I showed Jocelyne the beautiful text that Wainwright had written, she
said 'You have to do this.' It soon became apparent that the text was the libretto of an opera - and it's just been performed, at the Scotia Festival in Halifax, on May 31. I've posted the program notes in the 'Texts and Translations' section.

I want to use this space to pay tribute to the marvelous singers and musicians I had the good fortune to work with: baritone Clayton Kennedy, mezzo-soprano Marcia Swanston, clarinettist Micah Heilbrunn, the Blue Engine String Quartet.

The rehearsals were intense and intensely gratifying experiences; the intuition, musicianship and passion of everyone involved were electrifying. It seemed to me that every note, rest, tempo change had been so deeply assimilated that the performers were able - individually and as a group - to charge the piece with 'duende' - that ineffable quality of energy which Garcia Lorca, in a famous essay, regarded as indispensable. And this was palpable in the audience response.

We were honoured by the presence of Zofia Cisowski, Robert Dziekanski's mother, who flew in from British Columbia for the premiere. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a reception after the performance. To encounter in the flesh a person whose experience we had been imagining through poetry and music was an extraordinary experience. She told us that she wept through the entire performance, but that she was happy that we had chosen to remember her son in this way.