Chimera is new drag opera exploring the intricacies and complexities of identity.
Different drag performers interchangeably play the role of Chimera, each personifying different aspects of this one individual. Through examining the intersections of these various human sides, this chamber opera creates a space for vulnerability, empathy, introspection, and discovery.
The narrative develops through the process of getting to know each drag queen, not only as a character, but as the individual behind the character. Inspired by this personal interaction, each song in the opera is written specifically for the drag artist who performs it. The songs highlight both their drag persona and their true self, while underscoring the connections of shared experience. Through these shared stories, Chimera is created.
Throughout the piece, we see Chimera at various moments in her life through simultaneous performances that reveal the different sides of her identity and experience. This onstage transformation reveals everything to the audience: vulnerability, confidence, self-expression, repression, loneliness, and fabulousness, unveiling intimately personal and social narratives.
Timeline & Development
Following the work-in-progress performance at National Sawdust as part of the FERUS Festival in January 2019, Chimera is being developed throughout 2019-20. The creative team are casting further drag artists and singers as well as a costume designer and dramaturg. In addition, LGBTQ+ community organizations will be involved in the development of the work, consulting as the narrative and music take form, as well as producing their own creative response as a participatory arts project.
Composer Angélica Negrón on Chimera:
Chimera is born out of my love and respect for the drag community, which I’ve been fortunate to be in close contact with since my childhood in Puerto Rico. It’s also an homage to the strong women who shaped me, drag queens included.
Director Jorinde Keesmaat on Chimera:
This piece, for me, is about a very deep and profound inner urge to express. The inner strength to create to the extreme. To push yourself to be out there. What is more interesting to expose the world behind the façade of the outside? This piece is about glorifying women, a core element in my work. It is a tribute to all who are stigmatized and not free to be who they want to be.
Music by: Angélica Negrón
Libretto by: Angélica Negrón
Directed by: Jorinde Keesmaat
Desmond is Amazing (Desmond Napoles)
Miz Jade (Davon Chance)
Alexis Michelle (Alex Michaels)
Two additional performers to be confirmed
Additional pre-recorded singers to be confirmed
Shayna Dunkelman, electronics and percussion
Developed with members of The Knights ensemble (2 violin, viola, cello, bass & harp)
Puerto Rican–born composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón writes music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys, and electronics as well as for chamber ensembles and orchestras. Her music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR/Q2) and “mesmerizing and affecting” (Feast of Music) while the New York Times noted her “capacity to surprise” and her “quirky approach to scoring”. Angélica has been commissioned by the Albany Symphony, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, A Far Cry, the MATA Festival, loadbang, Carnegie Hall, Sō Percussion, and the American Composers Orchestra, among others. Angélica is the composer in residence for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra for their 2018–19 season. She is currently an Artist-in-Residence at National Sawdust, where she is completing Chimera, a lip-synch, drag-queen opera focused on the intricacies and complexities of identity; she is also the first composer in residence at the New York Botanical Garden, where she is working on an interactive choral piece that will give voice to the natural world at the Thain Family Forest.
Jorinde Keesmaat is a freelance director of opera and staged classical concerts. Since 2016, she has been Guest Director-in-Residence at the Center for Contemporary Opera in New York. In her immersive multidisciplinary work, Keesmaat plays with the relationship between spectator and performer. The conventional boundaries between concerts, opera, and theater are of little import in her work. Instead, cross-pollination plays a central role. In addition to regular theaters and concert halls, her performances regularly occur in unusual locations. In creating settings where people are allowed to look at each other, Jorinde hopes to astonish and disconcert her audience. “In a chaotic and confused world, I want to create moments that quiet and endure, pushing the spectator’s buttons to guide them to a highly personal emotional place.” After studying music theater at the Mountview Academy of Theater Arts in London, Keesmaat studied at the ArtEZ Art School.
Alexis Michelle, the original Subway Fish, is a native New Yorker who has yet to do jury duty. A theatrical gal at heart, she is NYC’s premiere theatre queen, and you can find her singing, lip-syncing, and shaking her Raymour & Flanigan memory foam ass all over town. After winning Season Five of So You Think You Can Drag at New World Stages, she’s enjoyed regular gigs at Barracuda, The West End, and her solo show at The Green Room at New World Stages. During the day, if she’s not painting faces as a professional makeup artist, you might find her shopping for materials in the Garment District, or swinging kettle bells at Mark Fisher Fitness. Alexis has performed at the 2015 GLAM awards and the RFTCA Aids Walk Pep Rally. You can keep up with Alexis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by following @AlexisLives.
Miz Jade is a drag performance artist known throughout NYC. She has been described as fierce, sensual, sophisticated, and full of surprises. A queen known for her teaching, activism, collaborations with Drag Queen Story Hour, and quick wit; she‘s bound to gag you and turn the party. Miz Jade was featured in a documentary in the Fall of 2018 by REVRY TV titled Queens of Kings. This docu-series takes a raw look at the stimulating and flashy lifestyle of some of Brooklyn’s brightest drag stars.
Desmond Napoles (AKA Desmond is Amazing) is a performer, drag kid, awarded LGBTQ advocate, outspoken gay youth, editorial model, public speaker, founder of his own drag house, fashion designer, muse, and icon. Most importantly, he is an inspiration to many and a representation of hope for the future to come.