'The Dragonfly Queen'

Return to Mala's world

Betsy McCann in Vortex's 2007 production of <i>The Dragonfly Princess</i>
Betsy McCann in Vortex's 2007 production of The Dragonfly Princess

When last we saw Mala, the princess from Ovo City had completed her quest to the Outlands to confront her cousin Vyn and restore the flow of glowing pearls to her city. Her journey, as recounted in the Payne Award-winning opera by Chad Salvata, seemed complete. But it turns out that Salvata was not done with the Faery heroine. He is continuing her story in The Dragonfly Queen, a new opera opening at the Vortex on Sept. 5. The Chronicle asked Salvata and his collaborator on stage and in life, Vortex Artistic Director Bonnie Cullum, about revisiting this particular world.

Austin Chronicle: Was The Dragonfly Queen already in your head when Princess was produced? What made you want to follow Mala further as a character?

Chad Salvata: While I had The Dragonfly Queen in mind when we produced The Dragonfly Princess, I have since fleshed out an entire mythology for this Faery world. This includes everything that happened leading up to The Dragonfly Princess, what has happened in the 11 years between the two shows, including an Ovo war campaign known as the Swarm, and what will happen for The Dragonfly Goddess, which will be part three at some point.

I like long stories, so it makes sense to continue the creation of the world in further operas. As a central character, Mala is interesting because of her transformation from princess to queen to goddess. It gives her many levels and a lot of opportunity for the way her story unfolds. As the Queen of the Ovo, Mala has become a bloodthirsty warmonger, and her power-hungry takeover of other faery realms creates powerful social parallels.

AC: Does this version retain the imagery of the original or build something new?

Bonnie Cullum: While stylistically similar [to The Dragonfly Princess], almost all of the design is new. Queen takes place 11 years after Princess, and the warlike Ovo are now on a ship that they seized from their enemy. So right up front the setting is different; instead of flying on the dragonfly Xephyra, they are at sea on the White Shell Ship. And because the whole show takes place on the ship, it was fun to figure out all of the things that we had to do to make it work for every scene and every character. Several characters are the same, but they have aged and evolved. Mala is no longer the carefree Fae princess but a powerful queen who, because of the influence of the Green Pearl, is morphing into a Frigg, a beast that in Mala's case is part Fae and part dragonfly. Joji is no longer a slave but a general.

AC: What can we expect to see in this adventure of Mala's? Another mammoth mechanical dragonfly?

BC: No giant insects but a spectacular White Shell Ship. Other highlights include the Octax, part Fae and part Vampire Squid played by Betsy McCann, as she attacks the ship in a spectacular and enormous costume. The great White Orca, a magical ocean centipede who is the crux of the lore of the world of the opera, makes an extraordinary appearance at the end of the show.

The Dragonfly Queen runs Sept. 4-27, Thursday-Sunday, 8pm, at the Vortex, 2307 Manor Rd. For more information, call 478-5282 or visit www.vortexrep.org.

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The Dragonfly Queen, The Dragonfly Princess, Chad Salvata, Ethos, Bonnie Cullum, Vortex Repertory Company, Betsy McCann

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