Edwin the Penguin: Taking Montevideo by the Slice

Get used to this face: future musical sensation Edwin the Penguin!

Get used to this face: future musical sensation Edwin the Penguin!

[Edwin the Singing Penguin is a rising star in the anthropomorphic-operetta circuit (not to mention the underground anthropomorphic-operetta scene); a penguin of singular talent, drive, and deep emotion and expression. As he ascends to what will without a doubt be star studded and glorious career, we make necessary time here to both chronicle and laud his conquest of both anthropomorphic-operetta and music itself! ]

Translated and reprinted from La Republica:

“Sunday, February 15, 2015:

In what was surely one of the most spectacular evenings of opera in recent memory, Edwin the Singing Penguin took the stage at the Auditorio Nacional Adela Reta to make his South American debut.

There had been much excitement and anticipation leading up to the opening performance for Trafalfo e la Pizza di Amore, which served as the additional debut for librettist Dr. Herbert Montreaux. While his critical writings have carried much weight in Montevideo and beyond, his artistic oeuvres had hitherto been only digested among the small art houses of the western states of America, and enthusiasts of both the contemporary avant garde and the nascent sub genre of anthropomorphic operetta were eagerly anticipating the affair, as well.

However, there was little doubt as to what the largest cause of the buzz around this particular bill for the Auditorio Nacional was for: Edwin the Singing Penguin. In this day and age of instant stardom and the breakdown between the artist on stage and the man in his private chamber, the relative ‘unknown’ status of Edwin the Singing Penguin is surely a distinctive marker. Near as we are to the Falklands, we have all naturally heard the reports of a penguin with an earnest appreciation for operatic performance. One of course immediately questions whether such a moniker is meant to be taken literally, and those stories seem to be purposefully vague. No visual record exists, only a smattering of recordings from the “Shackleton Hut Club”, which our research has revealed to be more a bordello than opera house.

Equally intriguing was how Dr. Montreaux, who has only been on this continent twice, for a lecture series in Bogota in 2003 and again in 2008, as part of the “Conference on Hegemony and Propaganda”, held that year in Buenos Aires, could be so intimate with so fresh a talent as Edwin the Singing Penguin to have already collaborated with Edwin the Singing Penguin on this operetta, writing the libretto and assisting with Edwin in the arrangement of the musical score.

Dr. Montreaux characterizes their pairing as a matter of chance:

“It was a perfect confluence of circumstances that I should happen to have been traveling to Stanley Island for respite right when Edwin was first heard at the harbour, humming in that velvety tenor of his. News certainly travels quickly in those quaint little hamlets, so I naturally took in a performance at the Shackleton Hut Club, and was, obviously, completely agog”

Dr. Montreaux was decidedly coy regarding Edwin the Singing Penguin’s true identity, as either a complete marvel of biology or simply a man dressed as a penguin, and rehearsals at the Auditorio were closed to the public. Rumors had been circulating that the cast consisted entirely of penguins that Dr. Montreaux had gathered and trained to sing and dance, and despite the growing global awareness of Edwin the Singing Penguin, he was nowhere to be seen in the weeks leading up to the performance.

As such, there was a palpable air of eagerness as the seats in the Auditorio began to fill. The utter spectacle surrounding the operetta brought a much more disparate audience than is normally seen at such debuts, and indeed, it became widely known that Mem Nahadr was going to be in attendance.

The program notes were a marvel in themselves, containing a voluminous address by Dr. Montreaux, who has never been known for being terse in his publications, which outlined the central themes and motifs of the operetta, as well as a thorough explanation of those themes’ solid grounding in critical theory.

The mystery was now finally revealed: Edwin the Singing Penguin was indeed a penguin who could sing like a man and not a man who looked and/or dressed like a penguin; the cast consisted almost entirely penguins, with Edwin playing the title role of Trafalgo, who, amid bouts of insomnia and hallucinatory encounters with beings of his own mind’s creation, manages to win the love of Eva, daughter of the insidious Count Grecci, who, it is revealed, has been poisoning Trafalgo with tainted pieces of pizza while Trafalgo is tutoring to Eva in the Count’s castle. Both Grecci and Eva were to be played by penguins named Ilthuain and Isolde, respectively; the delightful Raquel Pierotti was the only human on the play bill, who was undertaking the role of Treva, Trafalgo’s teaching assistant and secret admirer.

Finally the lights dimmed, and the house managed to quiet their chatter and animated predictions, if not their hearts.

What followed has of course been well documented on Twitter and other facets of social media; but please take a moment to let this reviewer, who has been paying close attention to opera, both in Montevideo and abroad, give his professional opinion.

Were the opera to have lasted no longer than the overture and the first act, it would’ve been a total tour de force, a rapturous victory of art, and the most amazing single thing I have ever seen on a stage. Edwin the Singing Penguin is not a great vocal talent, but if we are to make allowances for the fact that he is, after all, a penguin who taught himself to sing, he is a miracle.

The poise and control exhibited by this penguin, who, it must also be remembered, is hindered by lungs which are several sizes smaller than even an undersized tenor, is nothing short of breathtaking. His plumage was immaculate and gave the impression of imperial armor and was befitting of his command of the stage for those first glorious minutes of the operetta.

The resulting pandemonium which ensued can be chalked up to the unreadiness of the other penguins, specifically, the fact that they seemed to be ordinary penguins that Dr. Monreaux had dressed in elaborate costuming and simply set upon the stage. Much credit must be given to the professionalism of the orchestra and of Edwin and Miss Periotti, who carried on as best they were able amid the loud and unceasing squawking; Dr. Montreaux appears to have desired to create this effect as a metaphoric element. There did indeed seem to be a certain discordant beauty to the cacophony of the high pitched calls the other penguins were making among themselves; however, the increasing amounts of penguin feces present on the stage soon made for an atmosphere and odor too pungent to bear for many in attendance.

It would behoove Edwin the Singing Penguin to move on to new collaborators, given his talent. While the daringness of Dr. Montreaux, which has certainly never been in short supply, is certainly appreciated by this reviewer, such an antagonistic style is ultimately an inhibiting factor for the development of what may surely be one the new stars of opera.”

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