How do you give stage movement to a bear, a songbird and a dragon, as well as assorted dwarves and a god or two? Those are just some of the concerns facing Donna Feore , the choreographer of Siegfried , this year's entry in the Canadian Opera Company 's Ring cycle. Working closely with director François Girard and designer Michael Levine , Feore's picked up on the introspective nature of this third part of Richard Wagner's titanic work.
"Thankfully, neither of them treats choreography as simply filler," she says with obvious relief. "It's not a matter of creating steps to get a performer from A to B, but rather of handling the choreography as an integral part of the narrative."
It's a pretty big narrative that Wagner conceived. With its fairy-tale overtones, it deals with the coming of age of the young Siegfried, who's destined to be the hero who changes the world. First, though, he has to learn the meaning of fear and love.
"We first meet Siegfried on a mission to discover who his parents are. He's childlike in how he approaches daunting adventures; it's only when he meets a woman that he begins to mature."
Levine's work is one of the connecting elements of the four-part Ring cycle, so his vision of its continuity is crucial for the other creators.
"This part of the cycle operates literally on several levels," notes Feore, who's well known for her work at Stratford and her previous collaboration with Girard and Levine on the extraordinary Oedipus Rex With Symphony Of Psalms. "It takes place in the air, on the ground and underneath the ground.
"It really grows from within Siegfried, who sees aspects of himself in all the other characters. It's like a dream where you play all the roles yourself."
Working with six dancers and 24 supers, Feore sees her work as using the human body to create exciting moving images. But just as important are the production's moments of stillness.
"Despite its five-hour length - it takes 50 minutes for someone to say 'I love you' - this is always going to be an involving piece. François has said we have to reset the clock, not be concerned about filling each second with activity. You can't be busy for five hours, but have to let the music's force help the audience take in the story."