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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 17, No. 5 February 2012

Forty Years of Operetta in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean

by Daniel Turp & Caroline Rodgers / February 1, 2012

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The Société d’art lyrique du Royaume is celebrating 40 years of operetta in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean with Jacques Offenbach’s Les Brigands.

Martin Boucher, the company’s new artistic director, is on a mission to demonstrate that operetta is a form of opera that still deserves recognition. A native of Chicoutimi, he is an organist, singer, and choirmaster trained at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec.

“The tradition of operetta in the region dates back to 1971,” he says. “Originally, productions were presented as part of the Carnaval souvenir in Chicoutimi, and they were very successful. That’s where I had my first experience with opera. When you’re a young music student, you have these intense and stimulating experiences, and they give you the desire to do likewise.”

The Société d’art lyrique du Royaume, founded in 1987, subsequently took over. Every year, they put on a large-scale production that mobilizes the region’s music industry.

“There are a lot of roles in Les Brigands,” says Martin Boucher. “It requires some twenty soloists and a choir. In all, almost a hundred artists will participate. My goal is to produce projects that rally the community. We’re in a rural region. We have a conservatory, an opera company, musicians—we have to work together. A production like this, one that requires a lot of participants, means that people will identify with the project.”

This is the challenge at which he hopes to succeed with conductor Jean-Philippe Tremblay and director Éric Chalifour. They direct the twenty musicians of the Orchestre du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and 40 actors and chorus members, respectively. Notable cast members include tenor Éric Thériault in the role of Falsacappa as well as sopranos Pascale Beaudin and Marie-Ève Munger, who will play the roles of Fragoletto and Fiorella. These young players are joined by stage veterans Renée Lapointe in the role of the Princess and Joseph Rouleau, who lends his voice to the head of the carabinieri.

What’s more, Boucher’s seeing the performance at the Opéra Comique de Paris in June 2011, where he went to hear Julie Boulianne perform the character of Fragoletto in Les Brigands, influenced hischoice. “I fell in love with the work and with the production,” he says. “There is some really beautiful music in Les Brigands.”

Boucher proudly states that 85% of the soloists and 100% of the choristers in this production are natives of the region—a region known for having produced such singers as Jean-François Lapointe, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Manon Feubel and Julie Boulianne, who are a credit to Quebec on the world’s biggest opera stages.

Like his predecessors, the company’s new artistic director wants to ensure that the population of Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean has access to quality opera. To this end, he intends to consolidate the partnership with the Orchestre du Lac-Saint-Jean, but also with the Conservatoire de musique de Saguenay and the Collège d’Alma. He also hopes to pursue collaborating with the Jeunesses musicales to present works to young audiences.

The operetta repertoire is vast, so he has plenty of ideas when it comes to future productions. He intends to reserve lots of surprises for opera lovers. With Martin Boucher as artistic director, the Société d’art lyrique du Royaume seems to have a bright future—a fact that Les Brigands will soon demonstrate!

Translation: Rebecca Anne Clark

Les Brigands by Offenbach, February 9, 10, and 11, Salle François-Brassard in Jonquière. www.salr.ca

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