Opéra de Montréal Hosts Annual Gala
La maison symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts
Operatic excerpts by Ruggero Leoncavallo (Pagliacci), Gaetano Donizetti (L’elisir d’amore, Lucia di Lammermoor), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Don Giovanni), Charles Gounod (Roméo et Juliette), Georges Bizet (Carmen, Les Pêcheurs de perles), Giuseppe Verdi (Simon Boccanegra, Nabucco, Aida, La traviata), Umberto Giordano (Andrea Chénier), Jules Massenet (Don Quichotte, Thaïs), Léo Delibes (Lakmé), Giacomo Puccini (Turandot), Richard Wagner (Tristan und Isolde), Francesco Cilea (Adriana Lecouvreur), Vincenzo Bellini (Norma), Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Eugene Onegin), Camille Saint-Saëns (Samson et Dalila), Jacques Offenbach (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), and Richard Cocciante (Notre-Dame de Paris)
Phillip Addis (Baritone), Gianna Corbisiero (Soprano), Alain Coulombe (Bass), Gregory Dahl (Baritone), Antonio Figueroa (Tenor), Lyne Fortin (Soprano), Marc Hervieux (Tenor), Marie-Josée Lord (Soprano), Sonia Racine (Mezzo-Soprano), Lauren Segal (Mezzo-Soprano), Alexandre Sylvestre (Bass-Baritone) and Stéphane Tétreault (Cellist)
Serhiy Salov (Pianist), Chœur de l’Opéra de Montréal, Claude Webster (Chorus Master), Orchestre Métropolitain, Timothy Vernon (Conductor)
(Courtesy of OdM)
Opéra de Montréal (OdM) held its 16th Annual Gala Benefit Concert on Sunday afternoon. Although OdM continues to stage its main productions in Place des Arts’ Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, this year’s gala was held in the new, neighboring Maison symphonique de Montréal. This is a good move, as one can hear almost all the singers’ notes from the back of the main floor (unlike in the cavernous Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier where one often has to strain to hear).
The quality bar for the singers, however, has been steadily declining over the past few years. And although OdM often features foreign performers in its principal productions (note Hiromi Omura in the upcoming Il trovatore), all eleven solo singers this year were Canadian. But where were the established international stars from Québec, such as Karina Gauvin and Marie-Nicole Lemieux, or the solid up-and-comers like Julie Boulianne and Étienne Dupuis—let alone big names like Russell Braun, Isabel Bayrakdarian or Adrianne Pieczonka? A gala promises something special, not just the bread and butter singers we are used to in local productions.
Those who were engaged did, overall, deliver acceptable performances, but loudness and sometimes shouting were too common for comfort. In addition, two instrumental pieces were included (as filler? lack of suitable singers?). They were, fortunately, a delight. The eighteen-year-old cellist Stéphane Tétreault mesmerized the audience with a haunting, sensitive rendition of the “Méditation” theme from Massenet’s Thaïs. Just slightly less captivating was the young pianist Serhiy Salov’s performance of Liszt’s arrangement of “Liebestod” from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, which he played with agility, warmth and finesse.
The real star of the afternoon was the Chœur de l’Opéra de Montréal which sang in eleven of the twenty-five selections. They performed with impeccable intonation, diction and assurance. They were especially moving in “Vérone vit jadis” from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, and the rousing “A tuoi piedi ci prostriam” from Puccini’s Turandot which closed the first half of the program. Hats off to Chorus Master Claude Webster for the outstanding preparation.
The most enjoyable singer, the one with the most “star power” was Lauren Segal. Her lusty, robust mezzo overpowered the smaller-voiced Phillip Addis in “La ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. She sizzled in “Près des remparts de Séville” from Bizet’s Carmen (her dazzling red satin strapless gown did her no harm), and her duet with Lyne Fortin in “Dôme épais” from Delibes’ Lakmé was lovingly rendered.
Other note worthies were Sonia Racine, who sang “Acerba voluttà” from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur with full-throated power, and Gianna Corbisiero, who, accompanied by Tétreault on the cello, gave a smooth, lushly rendered “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila.
Tenor Marc Hervieux and soprano Marie-Josée Lord were the stars of the evening. Hervieux has been crossing over to the more popular repertory. He sang “Danse mon Esmeralda” from Luc Plamondon and Richard Cocciante’s musical comedy Notre Dame de Paris. It drew the greatest applause. The afternoon concluded with Lord, the chorus and several of the other soloists singing the “Libiamo” from Verdi’s La traviata. The traditional “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” was sadly missed at the conclusion of this year’s gala.
The gala opened with the traditional induction into the Canadian Opera Hall of Fame held on the darkened stage without the orchestra and chorus. Created in 1991 by OdM, the Hall of Fame honors cultural figures from across the country who have contributed to the development of opera in Canada. This year’s inductee was Bruno Laplante (baritone) who specializes in French music and recorded on the Calliope label. Since 1989 he has been appearing as part of an opera duo with mezzo-soprano France Duval. Laplante is also a producer and artistic director. Former inductees include Emma Albani, Raoul Jobin, Edward Johnson, George London, Joseph Rouleau, Maureen Forrester and Richard Margison.
Earl Arthur Love