A visual feast at the Quebec Opera

A visual feast at the Quebec Opera
A visual feast at the Quebec Opera

The Quebec Opera had a small “operetta” period about ten years ago, followed by a few seasons The bat, Parisian life of Offenbach and The Merry Widow from Lehar. The success had been, if we remember correctly, entirely respectable.

The institution therefore did well to bring out the first two scores this year, the first in the regular season, the second for its summer festival.

Director Jean-François Lapointe was lucky in re-engaging director Bertrand Alain, who we had seen in a completely different vein two years ago with Don Giovanni. Accustomed to the comic register, he produced a successful Franco-Quebec adaptation – we are at Expo 67 – of a libretto which may have become somewhat dusty over the decades. The first meeting between Eisenstein and Frank as a “fake Frenchman” in the second act was hilarious.

Although the direction of the actors was generally dynamic, the crowd at the ball lacked animation at times. And a proper choreographer would have helped to give more pep to the dance episodes.

The director also has the merit of surrounding himself well. Her collaboration with set designer Julie Lévesque and costume designer Émily Wahlman is candy for the retinas!

The unique stage set-up is very light, but fills the space excellently. All it takes is a cleverly chosen light accessory to avoid the monotony that could have arisen from three simple walls made of huge bars. Bars which, in the last act, turn 180 degrees to represent the prison where Eisenstein must be locked up.

The brightly colored costumes also stand out wonderfully against the candy pink background. Particularly those of the chorus members, who each take on the trappings of heroes from the small or big screen of the 1960s.

This opulence is, however, less present on the vocal side. Fortunately, the crucial role of Eisenstein is played brilliantly by the charismatic baritone Dominique Côté who, even if he does not quite have the velvet for this kind of repertoire, has little problem with the numerous high notes of the score, often sung by a tenor (Marc Hervieux did it in 2011).

But it is less conclusive for the two other central characters, soprano Jessica Latouche’s Rosaline and baritone Dominic Veilleux’s Dr Falke, who are in their first major professional roles. We are far from free and fulfilled singing.

Same observations, on a more minor level however, for the Alfred of tenor Eric Laporte, in whom we discover formidable talents as a comic actor.

Adèle by soprano Catherine St-Arnaud (Adina in The elixir of love in 2021) and the Frank of baritone Geoffroy Salvas are havens of vocal beauty, in more secondary roles. As Prince Orlofsky, mezzo-soprano Marie-Andrée Mathieu is a step below her usual form, which we are still happy to get enough of.

Actor Martin Perreault, for his part, makes a vicious and supercharged Frosch, very different from the very good-natured one of Jack Robitaille in 2011.

Nicolas Ellis, who was making his debut as conductor at the Opéra de Québec, led the Symphony Orchestra with confidence and petulance.

The bat will be back Tuesday and Thursday evening as well as Saturday afternoon.

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