Review: Verbal kicks to the groin when Valerie Solanas’ Scum manifesto becomes opera

It may be ironic that feministic dynamite is now being performed as an opera a stone’s throw from the cellar venue– the so-called ”club”– where the me too bomb exploded two years ago. First is the Stockholm premiere of ”Valerie’s voice”, based on Valerie Solanas’ infamous Scum manifesto – Society for cutting up men. As if the free, experimental musical life once and for all has decided that it will picture opera’s standing myth of woman as victim.

Fragments of the manifesto become flesh and blood– yes, even a uterus that the costume designer Åsa Gjerstad has drawn on the singer’s underwear. Helena Röhr’s direction allows Pfeiffer to play with body language in an exposé of submissive female roles and macho poses. Prerecorded recitation of the texts alternate with the voice part in a musical power struggle between frenetic fingering on strings and Solanas’ furious settling of scores with the cult of the male genius. She lustily rips apart the pages of a musical score and proclaims that everything a man touches ”turns to shit”.

Elgh has also allowed the musical form a freedom that in theory means that the parts can be reordered in almost any way with the help of a pedal. The hourlong show is both refreshing and uncomfortable, but there is also space for reflection and doubt. Atmospheric, dreamily beautiful sections where one can rest in between the sludgy satiric parts in a mess of juice and blood red lingon jam. ”Cutting up,” as Stridsberg points out in the foreword to her Swedish translation of the Manifesto, also means to criticise, to question. The strength of ”Valerie’s voice” is that it does not simply dole out verbal kicks to the groin, but also dares to scrutinise its own text.

Translation of the review in Dagens Nyheter. (pdf)