Synopsis

Two Angels Land in a Garden

For the Canadian premiere, our team has reconfigured the opera to bear faithful witness to what victims of trafficking are forced to endure.

Mrs XE has been under the control of her perpetrator, Mr. XE and is now in crisis. As she ages, her "value" in this exploitation is waning, which leaves her in danger. From the perspective of Mr. XE, she's less and less profitable, more and more a liability.

But when Mr. XE bursts in announcing he's recruited two new youths, Mrs. XE senses there's a chance to gain some control over her circumstances.

She becomes driven to survive her situation through means she learned from Mr. XE all too viscerally: power, control, manipulation, and exploitation. She shifts into the role of perpetrator.

The "angels", a boy and a girl, are cleaned, pruned, groomed, showered with gifts, love-bombed. Having learned the tactics of exploitation from Mr XE, her control over her situation grows.

Mrs. XE invites people to a gathering in order to promote and sell the boy, girl, and others. We see a rotating cycle of crimes. Buyers move in and out of doors, from victim to victim.

Throughout all of this, Mr. XE feels his own power slipping. Mrs XE has grown in status to the point where she doesn't need him.

Spiralling into desperation, he becomes violent, emphasizing his authority over his other victims and her. He states that her power will never eclipse his; she will "never be legendary". Mrs. XE, however, leans into his desperation. 

She insinuates that she's pregnant—and it's the boy's child.

He "frees" the angels, but what we witness is less escape, and more survival. They will forever be changed by this crime, and what is showcased are the myriad ways they and others are trapped in the sickening machine of exploitation.

Thrown off by her new status, he threatens to kill himself. She calls his bluff.

The lights go dark. He is dead.

Mrs. XE goes to the media, fulfilling — falsely — the public's desire for a victorious "hero's journey" story. In reality, there is no ending. There is no escape for the vast majority of victims.

We have not changed any text from the original libretto, but rather, we have presented the points laid out above through staging and production design to focus more on the victims and to showcase the system of grooming that reflects the process of recruitment, and in how a culture of exploitation and power is often developed through being trafficked first.


The Angels - Costume design and sketch by Joline Rath

Mr. & Mrs. XE - Costume design and sketch by Joline Rath

Mrs. XE and Ensemble - Costume design and sketch by Joline Rath