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U of O Opera Company performs a comic modern melodrama Nov. 23–24

Photo by Annie Thomas

“We haven’t exactly figured out how drunk I’m going to sound yet,” says Phillippe Etienne Blais. He plays free-spirited vagabond Bob in the University of Ottawa Opera Company’s production of The Old Maid and the Thief on Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 24 at 3 p.m. in Freiman Hall.

“It’s a comical opera,” he says. “It’s serious, but it’s also very funny.”

Written by Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti and set in the 1940s, The Old Maid and the Thief focuses on the relationships between four characters and illustrates the scandals beneath a docile small town façade. This comical opera is completely in English, which makes it more accessible to a younger audience.

“The thing about this opera is that it is very modern,” says co-director Kieran Foss. “The music is there to enhance the text. You hear these huge gestures in the music.”

The melodrama starts with Miss Todd, an old prude maid, finding Bob on her doorstep. Against her better judgment, Miss Todd is convinced by her clever housemaid Laetitia to let this strange vagabond stay, under the pretence that Bob is her cousin.

“(Laetitia) seems like an innocent character, but there’s always something going on in the back of her mind,” says Elise Heikkila, who plays the housemaid. “There’s the fear that she will end up old and alone like Miss Todd so she wants to find a man and does everything she can to get him.”

Miss Todd, a withering woman who worries about her stature, is equally desperate.

“I think she feels lonely and with the persuasion of Laetitia, she says, ‘Yes I will steal, and lie, and kill if it means he’ll love me,’” says Erika Churchill, who plays Miss Todd.

However, to Ms. Pinkerton, the nosy neighbour, everything is just fine and normal.

“Social order is very important to these women. It’s really all about keeping up appearances,” says Katelyn Osmond-Devereaux, who plays Ms.Pinkerton. “I love being this sassy old lady with her umbrella and purse. It’s so different from the roles I’ve played before.”

According to co-director Hyung Song, the struggles and motives of these characters may seem contradictory and strange, but in fact, they are very relatable.

“They are not just caricatures,” she says. “There is a human at the centre of each character on stage. In the end, you’ll remember them and see these people in others that you know.”

Tickets are $5 for students and can be purchased at the door. 



  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper