Hélène Guilmette: Hooked on operaby Daniel Turp
/ September 1, 2011
Flash version here
Opéra de Montreal opens its 2011-2012
season with Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Hélène Guilmette,
who sings Susanna, is an opera singer whose passion for the profession
is infectious, and one realizes that during the first encounter with
her. Her enthusiasm is rooted in total commitment, whether it’s
about the new season in Montreal, her relationship with colleagues or
her future commitments on the stages of the world, although she is also
fond of concerts and recitals.
After performing in Jules Massenet’s
Thaïs in 2003 and Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito in 2006,
she is excited to make her return to salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. She is
particularly pleased as Le nozze di Figaro is her favourite work,
and for her, Mozart’s music embodies beauty in simplicity. The role
of Susanna suits her very well! She has already played this very demanding
role at Opéra de Lille and Théâtre des Champs-Elysées but says she
wants to be extremely well prepared. One of the biggest challenges will
be to master the recitatives that do not match, due to cuts, those in
previous productions. She points out that Susanna’s character is on
stage during all four acts. From a vocal standpoint, the role is a challenging
marathon, but her previous career as an athlete in synchronized swimming
prepared her for such trials. For the last act, she needs to conserve
her energy to sing the air Deh vieni, non tardar, which she considers
one of the most beautiful pages of the opera repertoire.
Her enthusiastic attitude is also evident
when examining the relationship she has with her colleagues. While
awaiting the start of rehearsals in Montreal, Hélène Guilmette looks
forward to working with the American lyric soprano Nicole Cabell, who
will play Countess Almaviva, whose character has Susanna as her maid.
She has only good words for her colleague Julie Boulianne from Quebec,
who will play Cherubino for the occasion. She shows a genuine interest
in approaches suggested by conductor Paul Nadler and director Paul Diamond
for the Montreal production. She always shows openness to theatre performers,
who lean towards a real theatricality, took her out of her “comfort
zone” and allowed her to better embody her characters.
Since she distinguished herself in the
Voix nouvelles Competition in 2002 and the Queen Elisabeth International
Music Competition in 2004, Hélène Guilmette has trod the boards of
several major opera houses in Europe. The great French opera houses
have called for the Quebec soprano. She has sung at Opéra national
de Paris and Opéra comique, and she was also a guest of Théâtre de
la Monnaie in Brussels. At the Munich Opera, she starred in Poulenc’s
Dialogues of the Carmelites under the musical direction of Kent
Nagano, released on DVD (BelAir Classiques) in spring 2011.
One of the highlights of her next season
is performing in the opera Amadis of Gaule by Johann Christian
Bach, first at the Versailles Royal Opera and then at Opéra comique.
She will also play Eurydice in Orpheus and Eurydice by Christoph
Willibald Gluck at Angers Nantes Opera, and Hebe and Fatima in Les
Indes Galantes by Jean-Philippe Rameau at the Toulouse Opera. Her
next Susanna performance features costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier in
Figaro at the Montpellier Opera.
Hélène Guilmette says she wants to
favour a mixture of opera, concert and recital, as they are the drive
behind her personal and musical life. Through her performances in concerts
and recitals, she has so far built a solid reputation both in Europe
and Quebec, as evidenced by her appearances with the Royal Concertgebouw
Orchestra of Amsterdam and with Les Violons du Roy, with whom she performed
in 2009 for its 25th anniversary. The soprano also sang in
concert this summer at the Festival de Lanaudière and the Festival
International du Domaine Forget. Next season, she will be the soloist
in Poulenc's Gloria at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.
Her talent can be appreciated by listening
to the recording of Airs chantés (Ambroisie), which includes
songs by Hahn, Poulenc and Montrealer Lionel Daunais. She has also recorded
two Haendel programs with Andreas Scholl (Il duello amoroso and
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne) under the prestigious French
label Harmonia Mundi. What does the future have in store? She hopes
that the program Musiques de femmes, including songs by the late Jeanne
Landry (Guilmette featured them at the Palais Montcalm in 2010) will
be immortalized on disc. The soprano confided that she would like to
commemorate the work of the great French composer on the 75th
anniversary of her passing away in 2012.
Hélène Guilmette wants to gain the
respect of her peers and avoid being a one-hit wonder. The future should
have big successes coming her way.
[Translation: Valentina Catana]
Hélène Guilmette plays the role of
Susanna in La nozze di Figaro, presented by the Opéra de Montreal,
salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, at Place des Arts on September 17, 20, 22 and