Welcome to this 21st century version of Don Juan. Our protagonist is now a woman, Donna, owner of a sex club, who pursues men and women alike. Accompanied by her faithful and long-suffering assistant Sam, she defends herself against Matt, an aggressive spurned lover (by murdering him), beds the innocent newlyweds Otto and Anna, and romances Matt’s young daughter Lola—all before the first intermission. The second half finds Donna on the run by night, still playing havoc with Otto and Anna, and frustrating Sam’s romantic pursuit of Otto. Matt’s ghost appears and tells Lola that Donna doesn’t love her, how Donna murdered him, and that they must seek vengeance together. Matt (in the form of a taxi driver) takes Donna and Sam to a lakeside beach party, which becomes a place of reckoning for Donna, as her past victims confront her. Defying them, she dives into the lake, whereupon Lola dives in after her and pulls her under. They both drown.
The Canadian Opera Company commissioned us in 2006 to create Swoon, a kind of contemporary version of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Following its success, we were drawn to Don Giovanni, and had the notion to change the hero into a woman. This really changed the story, aligning it more with contemporary and transgressive ideas about gender roles and sexual orientation. We also thought it important that the justice meted out against Donna is not about adultery, but about her cruelty and mockery of the people around her. It helps us to care for these people, in spite of their foibles; they carry the emotional weight of the opera. Crush took five years to write: two for the libretto, three to compose. We worked closely together on the storyline, with thoughtful dramaturgy by Guillaume Bernardi and Brendan Healy.
Crush was commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company, under the late Richard Bradshaw. It received a workshop production in August 2015 the Theatre Department of The Banff Centre, mounted by Against the Grain Theatre and director Joel Ivany in partnership with the COC.