Nicola Correia-Damude can’t figure out how to teach someone to tell a joke. In fact, she admits that while she can be funny, she herself has trouble telling one.
“It was an embarrassment growing up,” she laughs, “that I could entertain my family but not tell a joke that began, ‘A guy walks into a bar.…’”
What’s really funny is that in Canadian Stage’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, she plays Matilde, a Brazilian maid who spends the entire play trying to devise the world’s most perfect joke.
Oh, and in Portuguese, a language she doesn’t speak.
Matilde works for Lane, a high-powered doctor who can’t stand cleaning; Lane’s life goes out of control when her physician husband starts an affair with one of his patients. Matilde finds herself spinning into depression, too, so Lane’s sister Virginia offers to do Matilde’s job secretly.
“What’s most sad and exciting about Matilde is that she’s the only one in the play who’s literally alone, living in a new country without family or friends. Yet she has a sense of humour and a desire to laugh,” says Correia-Damude, who’s spent several seasons at Stratford and Shaw, where she played the staunch feminist Sylvia Craven in The Philanderer.
“That’s the most difficult thing in the play to explore: how does someone who’s so alone maintain her happiness and sense of self? The play’s strongest message is learning that laughing and crying are two sides of the same emotional experience.”What’s it like telling a joke in a new language?
“I love the depth and texture of Portuguese,” she says. “The telling is exciting and vivacious. Even non-speakers understand a joke’s tone. That’s why we laugh at kids’ jokes – not because the punchlines are so funny but because the tellers are so happy. That pleasurable feeling can be shared across all boundaries.”
Had enough of operatic warhorses like Tosca and want something newer than Janacek’s 1930 From The House Of The Dead?
This is your lucky week: Tapestry New Opera Works (with Harbourfront’s World Stage) and Soundstreams Canada offer eight operatic premieres.
Seven of them make up Tapestry’s Opera To Go, 15-minute collaborations involving librettists Leanna Brodie, Dave Carley, Anna Chatterton, Lisa Codrington and Krista Dalby and composers Craig Galbraith, David Ogborn, Andrew Staniland, Kevin Morse and Anthony Young.
You can expect everything from PhD romance to a black comedy played out on an operating table, from a queen’s pursuit of an unlikely mate to large-scale puppets.
The Soundstreams work is the debut of The Journey (Pimooteewin), billed as the first Cree opera. With libretto in Cree (and narration in English) by Tomson Highway, music by Melissa Hui and direction by choreographer Michael Greyeyes, it’s a tale of the trickster Weesageechak and the eagle Misigoo’s adventures with the spirits of the dead.
Presented in cooperation with the Elmer Iseler Singers, the show features singer Xin Wang.