Transit of Venus
Composer: Victor Davies
Librettist: Maureen Hunter
Other Artistic Personnel: James Meena (Conductor)
Larry Destochers (Director)
Brian Perchaluk (Set and Costume Designer)
Scott Henderson (Lighting Designer)
Original Cast: Russell Braun (Le Gentil – age 35, astronomer)
Monica Huisman (Celeste – age 15, his fiancée)
Jean Stilwell (Margot – age 36, his mother’s companion)
Colin Ainsworth (Demarais – age 18, his assistant)
Judith Forst (Madame Sylvie – age 65, his mother)
Premiere Date: November 24, 2007
Producing Company: Manitoba Opera Association
Description: Act I:
The story begins with Le Gentil’s departure from France to India on his first attempt to record the transit of Venus. The transit was an important scientific event that would help measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Le Gentil’s departure is not expected and his household is disrupted, particularly for Celeste, the young woman to whom he is engaged. Celeste’s mother Margot is surprised by the engagement since she and Le Gentil had had an affair when they were younger. Before he departs, Celeste attempts to seduce Le Gentil in his return.

Act II:
Six years later, Margot and Le Gentil’s mother, Madame Sylvie are anxiously awaiting his arrival. When Celeste enters the room, she realizes something is wrong and goes to Desmarais, Le Gentil’s assistant who was sent home from India because of illness. Desmarais argues with Celeste about Le Gentil and tells her that Le Gentil has changed. Leaving Desmarais, Celeste enters the observatory to discover le Gentil already has been there for some time. Although they still care for one another, they are tentative with each other. Le Gentil playfully teases Celeste and she chides him for his lengthy absence. As he tells her how much more infinite and beautiful the world is than he had imagined, he realizes she has an insatiable thirst for knowledge. She, too, becomes filled with the wonders of the universe. Le Gentil asks Celeste to marry him, to which she agrees. When he admits that he is returning to India because his first attempt to record the transit of Venus was unsuccessful, she begs him not to leave. He convinces her that they are ‘fixed’ by God in an orbit that, no matter how far he wanders, she will always draw him back. Celeste agrees to wait again for his return, but insists that he must come back immediately after the transit. She is not prepared to compete with the universe forever.

Act III:
Act III begins five years later, with Margot finding Le Gentil sitting despondent and alone in the sitting room where everything is covered in sheets. During the intervening years, Le Gentil has been assumed dead. His mother is now senile and lives with relatives. But Margot assures Le Gentil that Celeste still is not married and will arrive shortly. Le Gentil tells Margot his journey was very difficult and it was hard to make it home. Celeste now enters the sitting room. Le Gentil is struck by her beauty but senses something different about her. He is unsuccessful in reconciling with her even as he tells her of the inner struggle he has had. She refuses to listen to him and announces she is going to have a child and, once the baby is born, will move with Margot to New France. Le Gentil is hurt and angry and demands to meet the father. Margot has to mediate the fight that erupts between Celeste and Le Gentil. He offers to marry her, telling her he loves her and will not be turned away by ‘one fateful indiscretion.’ Celeste denies it was an indiscretion. In grieving for Le Gentil in his absence, she turned to the one person who knew and cared for him almost as much as did she. As her grief diminishes in time, she realizes she has fallen in love with the man. Le Gentil realizes Celeste is referring to Desmarais, but begs her to reconsider her position. Celeste refuses, telling him that she did love him once but doesn’t now and never will again. She leaves. Le Gentil is stunned. Even at the worst of times, even after failing to chart the second transit, Le Gentil believed he would never lose Celeste. He tells about the strange circumstances that prevented his charting the second transit – an unseasonable storm that blew in and obscured his view of the sky. Unable to find the words to console him, Margot leaves and Le Gentil is alone in the ruins of his home.
Length: 03:00
Total Acts: Not Available
Musical Style: Tonal / melodic / dramatic with moments of humor
Contact: Victor Davies
E-mail Address:
Phone: 416-422-0432
The Opera Fund Awardee Information
Award Category: 2007 Canadian Opera Creation F Development
Project Name: Transit of Venus
Awardee: Manitoba Opera
Director: Larry Desrochers
Designer: Brian Perchaluk
Award Category: 2008 Canadian Opera Creation F Production
Project Name: Transit of Venus
Awardee: Manitoba Opera
Director: Larry Desrochers
Conductor: James Meena
Designer: Brian Perchaluk
Schedule of Performances Listings
Transit of Venus (Davies)
Saturday, November 24, 2007 - Manitoba Opera
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