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Since Bruce Jenner had sex reassignment surgery in 2017 to become Caitlyn Jenner, the subject of transgender men and women has become mainstream news. Jenner is an Olympic champion and part of the most media- famous family on the planet, the Kardashians; but what is the experience like for the less exalted? As One is a short opera that has already racked up an unusually large number of performances in North America since its premiere in 2014, with more productions to come. About the experiences of a transgender woman, it certainly hits the zeitgeist.

Composer Laura Kaminsky has scored the work for a string quartet to accompany the mezzo and baritone who both voice the central character, Hannah. Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, herself a transgender woman, provided the libretto which offers a series of 15 scenes, each a vignette of Hannah’s life from her small-town youth to adult self-awareness.

It’s all more approachable than it may sound. The music is cleanly propulsive and the vocal lines are clear; the libretto is apposite, often witty. In this recording the two singers are real-life wife and husband Sasha Cooke and Kelly Markgraf, adept in portraying the central character throughout her gender reassignment. The concept does raise a couple of questions: why is a transgender woman portrayed by two cis gender singers? And do they represent gender-specific elements of her life, or is it a before/after effect? But overall it is a serious and interesting attempt to look at an important subject and raise awareness and discussion, something that opera is adept at doing. To investigate, go to www.asoneopera.com.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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