The Opéra de Montréal launches its 37th season with Giuseppe Verdi’s monumental Aida, starring  Bulgarian tenor Kamen Chanev as Radames and Russian soprano Anna Markarova as Aida (Photo by Yves Renaud, courtesy  Opéra de Montréal)

Aida and The Wall anchor Opéra de Montréal’s new blockbuster season

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The new General Director of the Opéra de Montréal, Patrick Corrigan, fresh from a 20-year stint at the Pacific Opera Victoria where he was CEO, is thrilled to be back in his hometown of Montreal.

“I’m the kind of guy who stands outside Place des Arts and dreams of being inside,” says the proudly bilingual Corrigan. “I’m extremely excited to be back in Montreal. I have always had a great love for Montreal. I walk down the streets, they are so full of secrets, there’s so much history in this unique city. And it’s such a great time to come back to Montreal, with the city’s big 375th anniversary celebrations next year.”

The Opéra de Montréal’s 2016-2017 season will play a big part in Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations, with the company’s March 2017 world premiere of Another Brick In The Wall – The Opera, based on Roger Waters’ legendary work The Wall. The opera version composed by Julien Bilodeau is based on Waters’ lyrics and music.

Opéra de Montréal General Director Patrick Corrigan (Photo by Jen Steele)

Opéra de Montréal General Director Patrick Corrigan (Photo by Jen Steele)

The Wall was a global phenomenon,” says Corrigan. “A huge generation closed their bedroom doors to listen to records and take the journey through the compositions, through the themes, through a piece that has theatrical legs. I think it is a brilliant and innovative idea to engage Roger Waters with an exciting Canadian composer to explore this work that is familiar to a generation that may very well be open to the idea of opera. ”

Roger Waters agrees.

“When I was approached by this wonderful team to take part in this project, I think my reply was dismissive in that it had been my experience that collaborations between the worlds of rock and roll and symphonic music and the classical world were generally disastrous,” he says. “But [the Opéra de Montréal] were extremely persuasive. They came down to New York for a meeting and Julien [Bilodeau] played me what he had already started working on. I confess I sat there not expecting to be moved, and I was moved.”

The seed for Waters’ iconic 1979 masterpiece The Wall was planted in 1977 when Waters spat on a fan at a Pink Floyd concert at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. “It will be 40 years next year since I famously spat at one of you,” says Waters.

When asked if he remembers why he spat on the fan in the first place, Waters replies, “What I think happened was I was pissed off or disaffected about playing to a large number of people who – with all due respect to the population of Montreal – were completely drunk and not paying much attention to what was going on onstage.”

Another Brick In The Wall – The Opera is just one highlight in a five-opera season that launches with a big-budget production of Guiseppe Verdi’s three-act masterpiece Aida, set in Ancient Egypt and first performed at Cairo’s Khedivial Opera House in 1871. The Montreal production runs Sept. 17 to 24 and stars Russian soprano Anna Markarova as Aida and Bulgarian tenor Kamen Chanev as Radames. The orchestra will be lead by legendary American conductor Paul Nadler.

Aida is the grandest of grand operas, it is an inexhaustable part of the repertoire,” says Corrigan. “Its humanity, its beauty, its context in terms of politics and history and art, is still so significant.”

The Opéra de Montréal will follow-up Aida with a much-anticipated production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which runs Nov. 12 to 19, starring Canadian bass-baritone Gordon Bintner in the title role, as well as tenor Jean-Michel Richer (who wowed audiences last season in the Opéra de Montréal’s landmark world-premiere opera Les Feluettes), followed by a new production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites starring Quebec sopranos Marianne Fiset and Marie-Josée Lord, from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4, 2017 ; and then seven performances of Another Brick In The Wall – The Opera, from March 11 to 24, 2017. Another Brick In The Wall – The Opera will star renowned Canadian baritone Étienne Dupuis as Pink, the fallen rock star, and will feature 10 soloists, 48 chorus singers and 70 musicians.

Roger Waters comes full circle 40 years later in Montreal with Another Brick In The Wall – The Opera (Photo by Yves Renaud)

Roger Waters comes full circle 40 years later in Montreal with Another Brick In The Wall – The Opera (Photo by Yves Renaud)

Following Another Brick In The Wall – The Opera, the Opéra de Montréal will close their season with Puccini’s much-loved opera La Bohème in May 2017. “La Bohème is the sound of falling in love, ” Corrigan says. “Again, some wonderful Canadian artists in this show, notably (soprano) France Bellemare as Mimi. The demands of that part really requure a gorgeous voice that is able to easily be present throughout the range. It is so excting to see this young singer emerge here. La Bohème is so present in popular culture too – from the movie Moonstruck to the musical Rent, which was a derivative of it – I am hoping we are forced to add a performance!”

With classics like Aida and La Bohème, and the specially-commissioned The Wall opera, the Opéra de Montréal hopes to draw new audiences and further grow opera. Says Corrigan, “You always have to be prepared to do things differently, an organization like Opéra de Montréal always needs to be opening new doors, new windows, and trying new things. That’s part of the agenda. But this company is already doing that.”

While there are no current plans to expand the season to six operas, Corrigan says, “We have five productions in the biggest opera house in the country, and we are also interested in developing shows in smaller venues where one does not usually see opera. So perhaps that opportunity of exploring opera on different scales can expand the range of programming offered in a season.”

The Opéra de Montréal launches its 37th season with Giuseppe Verdi’s monumental Aida, at Salle Wilfred-Pelltier on September 17, 20, 22, and 24, at 7:30 nightly. Running time : Three hours with two intermissions.

The Opéra de Montréal will also present Don Giovanni by Mozart (Nov. 12 to 19), Dialogues des Carmelites by Poulenc (Jan. 28 to Feb. 4, 2017), Another Brick In The Wall – The Opera (March 11 to 24, 2017) and La Boheme by Puccini (May 20 to 27, 2017). All operas are performed in their original language with bilingual surtitles projected above the stage.

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