Lyrical art is not doing well in Quebec. This is the sad observation made by baritone Marc Boucher, director of the Festival Classica, which will take place from May 27 to June 19 at various locations on the South Shore. In the long term, however, it is the creation of a New Metropolitan Opera that occupies him. A path to salvation for opera on Quebec soil?

“There was a golden age of professional opera evenings in Quebec in the early 2000s,” recalls the singer, who has been in the business himself since that time.

According to his own count, the number of parties would have fallen from fifty to twenty since the passage to the third millennium.

“It’s not just a question of returning to the level of the 2000s. I want to go even further”, says the man who says he is aiming for up to 80 professional opera evenings per year with the creation of his New Metropolitan Opera. , which he sees in residence in an 870-seat hall that would be built shortly on the South Shore, a project that the administrator describes as “quite concrete”.

But how to attract new audiences, while the main lyrical institutions (Quebec and Montreal) sometimes struggle to fill their rooms? “Big question, answers Marc Boucher. If there are fewer performances in Quebec, we know less about the artists. Basically, it’s a bit of a chicken and the egg. »

“We are about fifteen, maybe twenty Quebec artists who work in France. We’re better known there than here! We have to get people to discover and love our artists, to identify with them,” argues the baritone.

Among the means of attracting music-loving audiences, Marc Boucher campaigned for a great return to the operetta, a genre that had its heyday in Quebec, notably with the Variétés lyriques, in the 1930s to 1950s. Quebec also tried it successfully about ten years ago.

“When I was a trainee at the Opéra de Montréal, we did operetta, and the operetta was very successful. I think it’s part of Quebec’s DNA, ”says the singer.

For the moment, the Classica Festival, which he has been directing for 12 years, immediately announces three operas on the program for its 2023 edition: The Man Who Laughs, a creation by Airat Ichmouratov based on the eponymous novel by Victor Hugo , L’adorable Belboul, an operetta by Massenet rediscovered in 2017, and Miguela, the last opera by Théodore Dubois, never given in a complete version.

Won’t it be difficult, with these highly nested scores, to attract an audience that already has trouble getting interested in lyrical art as soon as you leave the Carmen-Traviata-Bohème canon? “I’m betting that by offering these works, the public will be there,” Marc Boucher simply replies.

And money remains, as always, the sinews of war. The director of Classica is obviously counting on the public subsidies from which his organization already benefits, but also on the economies of scale induced by the troupe model he wants to adopt for his New Metropolitan Opera: instead of hiring only singers freelancers, the theater would have a few artists in residence who would enjoy a salary to participate in several productions each year. The use of lighter and more versatile decors, with the help of digital arts, would also, according to him, make the operation viable.

An ambitious project, concedes the main interested party, but essential to bring our artists to life and fill up Quebec opera.

An unloved instrument, the harpsichord? The grievance of monotony that is often attributed to it disappears as soon as you open your ears to capture all the subtleties allowed by this plucked string instrument. And a master, the Frenchman Pierre Hantaï, to whom we owe a legendary recording of the Goldberg Variations, will officiate on the Bourgie Hall stage on May 13 at 7:30 p.m. On the menu: jewels by Bach, Handel, Froberger, Byrd and Bull.

Want to get off the marked trails? A stroll in the east of Montreal is a must to hear the splendid Casavant organ with mechanical action (2 keyboards, 30 stops) of the Marie-Reine-des-Cœurs sanctuary (Cadillac metro station). Free recitals will be given there every Friday in May from 12:15 p.m. The titular Yves-G. Préfontaine (May 13), Aldéo Jean (May 20) and Matthieu Latreille (May 27) will succeed each other at the tribune of the Montfortian sanctuary. Watch out, you might get a taste for it!

A rarity: the two main string orchestras in Quebec, the Violons du Roy and I Musici, will be reunited under the direction of Jean-François Rivest on May 26 (7:30 p.m.) at Salle Pierre-Mercure and on May 28 (19 h 30) at the Diamant de Québec. The two ensembles will tackle two milestones in the string repertoire, Corelli’s Concertos grossos (Nos. 1, 8 and 11) and Schoenberg’s moving Nuit transfigurée. Bonus: co-commissioned premiere of Canadian composer Stacey Brown.

The Orchester Classique de Montréal will end its season in style on May 27 at the Maison symphonique with a tribute concert to healthcare personnel who have devoted themselves during the pandemic. Who says “hero” says “joy”, and it is under happy auspices that the program has been placed, consisting of the luminous Symphony No. 3, called “Eroica”, and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, a work announcing the last symphony of the German master. Chef Jacques Lacombe will be at the pulpit with the Daughters of the Island, the Musicians Chantres and the pianist Jean-Philippe Sylvestre (for the Fantaisie).


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