A Seasonal Celebration
Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts
Operatic excerpts by Giuseppe Verdi (Il trovatore, La traviata, Rigoletto, Simon Boccanegra), Francesco Cilea (Adriana Lecouvreur), Alfredo Catalani (La Wally), Arrigo Boito (Mefistofele), Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Die tote Stadt), Giacomo Puccini (Tosca), Jules Massenet (Manon)
Antoine Bélanger (Tenor), Julie Boulianne (Mezzo-soprano), Lara Cieckiewicz (Soprano), Catherine Daniel (Mezzo-soprano), Chantal Dionne (Soprano), Etienne Dupuis (Baritone), Manon Feubel (Soprano), Annemarie Kremer (Soprano), Marie-Josée Lord (Soprano), Dana Beth Miller (Mezzo-Soprano), Susan Patterson (Soprano), Luc Robert (Tenor), Grigory Soloviov (Bass), Alexandre Sylvestre (Bass-baritone)
Orchestre Métropolitain and Le Chœur de l’Opéra de Montréal, Claude Webster (Chorus Master), Paul Nadler (Conductor)
(© Yves Renaud/OdeM)
Opéra de Montréal (OdeM) held its 15th Annual Gala Benefit Concert on Sunday afternoon. It began with the induction of Canadian mezzo-soprano Gabrielle Lavigne into The Canadian Opera Hall of Fame for her exceptional contribution to the musical life of Canada. Created in 1991 by OdeM, the Hall of Fame honors cultural figures from across the country who have contributed to the development of opera in Canada. Members include Emma Albani, Raoul Jobin, Edward Johnson, George London, Joseph Rouleau, Maureen Forrester and Richard Margison.
Fourteen singers and chorus offered an impressive twenty-three "greeting cards" (in the words of OdeM Artistic Director Michel Beaulac). The chorus opened with a gorgeous rendition of "Salve Regina" from the prologue of Boito’s Mefistofele. This was quickly followed by a gripping interpretation by Chantal Dionne of "Glück das mir verlieb" from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt. Following that, Lara Cieckiewicz with a riotous "Je suis encore toute étourdie" from Massenet’s Manon, then Luc Robert with a powerful interpretation of "Recondita armonia" from Puccini’s Tosca. Each of these four selections progressively raised the emotional Geiger counter. In addition, the quick succession of each piece helped sustain this dizzying momentum right up to the intermission.
The show lost some of this momentum in the second half. Of the afternoon’s selections, eight were by Verdi – five of these after intermission. There was no Baroque and nothing written after 1920 (if one doesn’t include the heart-warming encore of Irving Berlin’s "White Christmas"). Nevertheless, the remaining numbers were well-chosen and offered enough contrast and delights to assuage the most discriminating musical taste.
All singers and chorus acquitted themselves admirably. Some standouts included Dana Beth Miller who blew us away with "Acerba volutta" from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur; and in Rigoletto’s "Bella figlia," joined by Lara Cieckiewicz, Luc Robert and Alexandre Sylvestre. Miller has not only a warm, full-bodied voice with awesome sustaining power, but also a stage presence that should light up any scene. Equally impressive was Grigory Soloviov with "Il lacerato spirito" from Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra. His deep bass was well-centered and vocally poised.
Also well-received were Manon Feubel, who robustly sang "È salva! Non mai dunque avro pace" from Catalani’s La Wally, and, with Luc Robert, the "Miserere" from Verdi’s Il trovatore; as well as Marie-Josée Lord who heartily participated in three selections, including the closing "Libiamo" with Antoine Bélanger from Verdi’s La traviata.
The Chœur de l’Opéra de Montréal sang with subtlety, panache or exuberance as the number demanded. It was obvious they were enjoying themselves. The Orchestre Métropolitain provided fine accompaniment under the baton of Paul Nadler. One had to wonder, however, considering the plethora of local talent present, why OdeM went to the expense of engaging a foreign conductor. There are fine conductors in Québec, and indeed in the rest of Canada, who could have provided equally good support.
At least six of Sunday afternoon’s participants are either alumni or a current member of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal program, one of the finest in North America.
Earl Arthur Love