Quebec Philharmonic Orchestra: the CEO leaves due to “differences” with Alexandre Da Costa

Quebec Philharmonic Orchestra: the CEO leaves due to “differences” with Alexandre Da Costa
Quebec Philharmonic Orchestra: the CEO leaves due to “differences” with Alexandre Da Costa

The general director of the Orchester philharmonique du Québec (OPQ) Jean-Marc Léveillé hastened his departure in July, “taking into account the environment that existed” within the organization. He reports “divergences between the general management and the artistic director, Alexandre Da Costa, which seemed irreconcilable”.

These disagreements did not manifest themselves in the artistic choices of the Orchestra, but rather in the administrative aspect.

“There was a divergence of points of view on the role of general management, on contractual respect, on respect for deadlines,” says Mr. Léveillé, who left the OPQ on June 3. When deadlines are not met, there are significant consequences and financial impacts. And it’s the CEO who is responsible.”

“The general manager is responsible for everything,” he insists. If the artistic director doesn’t agree, if he doesn’t want to collaborate, that’s where we find ourselves in a dead end.”

Last September, Mr. Léveillé announced to the board of directors that he wanted to end his mandate at the end of the current fiscal year, i.e. until July. But in early April, he indicated his interest in leaving early.

The differences between Mr. Léveillé and the one who occupies the roles of conductor and artistic director in no way affected the recent direction of the musical ensemble, assures the former general director. The ensemble abandoned the name of the Longueuil Symphony Orchestra to become the Quebec Philharmonic Orchestra; a change accompanied by a tangent towards more popular and mainstream works.

A source close to the OPQ, who testifies anonymously for fear of reprisals, goes further and evokes a “major toxic climate at the Orchestra, 100% created by Alexandre Da Costa”.

“It’s toxic celebrity behavior, blackmail, intimidation. This is verbal abuse. It’s very difficult,” he says, arguing that these behaviors manifest themselves even with external partners and suppliers.

“If Mr. Léveillé left, it was for major reasons. He raised important points from an ethical, financial and loyalty point of view. He denounced all this to the board, and certain members turned against him,” this source even suggests.

“Differences of view”

The president of the OPQ Jean-Jacques Rainville refutes the allegations of a toxic climate.

Rather, it highlights differences of view on the orchestra’s mandate between the artistic field and that of finance. “We are not the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and we have to go according to our means,” he believes.

“With a Grand Orchestra of 52 members,” he adds, “we always lose, each year, between 10% and 15% of our musicians who decide, for all kinds of reasons, to go elsewhere or move on to something else. thing.”

For Mr. Rainville, the increase in the number of concerts on the schedule, which implies an increase in the number of practices, combined with programming intended for young people and seniors, has also forced the hand of musicians who had commitments elsewhere.

In 2023, changing the name of the Orchestra was a wise choice, according to Mr. Rainville, allowing it to perform everywhere.

“We had a full house recently in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.”

But that’s not enough to make a profit. “We need at least a room with 1,000 seats. There are none in Montérégie,” says Mr. Rainville.

The president indicates that there remains more than $300,000 in the Foundation’s coffers. “For several years, the Foundation has helped to make up for the deficits caused by the pandemic.”

The name of the new general director will be revealed in the coming days.

Mediation and negotiation
Jean-Marc Léveillé does not establish a link between his departure and that of 18 of the 40 musicians, which occurred between the arrival of Mr. Da Costa in January 2019 and 2022.

In an article in Le Devoir published in March 2023, musicians questioned his artistic choices and even his skills. A mediator had been appointed by the Ministry of Labor to resolve the impasse.

The former general manager explains that some departures were not linked to a disagreement with chef Da Costa, but constituted retirements. “Some agreed with the change, others less so,” he adds.

In June 2023, a Success Plan was signed between the management of the orchestra and the Guilde des musicians du Québec.

“There were elements misunderstood on both sides. And the pandemic did not help, the communication link was not there as much, relates Mr. Léveillé, who worked within the Orchestra for 14 years. Mediation made it possible to re-establish this link.”

These exchanges set the table for negotiations, as the musicians’ collective agreement comes to an end. Offers from the Guild were also submitted on June 21.

In addition to the 52 musician positions, the OPQ has five permanent people in the administration and hundreds of volunteers.

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