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Rafael Montriller takes the pulse of his city

Rafael Montriller takes the pulse of his city

The Orchester Symphonique de Montréal and its conductor, Raphael Payer, kicked off the 2023 Classical Spree on Wednesday night with their big free event on the Esplanade of the Olympic Park. In contrast to the lackluster vintage of 2022, this evening was a resounding success.

It is incredibly eloquent to see how the appearance of such concerts can speak volumes about the spirit that drives these events. With the OM at the Mount Royal, Yannick Nézet-Séguin donned a pink T-shirt over his shorts, and gave a heartwarming speech about forgiveness and the colors of love before inviting Ariane Moffatt to sing flowering life. To hear the explosion of decibels last night, the harmonic tension that appeared in ride of the valkyries, despite the amplification that can hardly be called “musical”, no one would have imagined Raphael in the shorts. OSM was in the midst of a show of strength in a kind of acoustic intoxication.

To define oneself

If we call him Rafael, it’s because he wants to be called (especially not “the maestro”), as violinist Marian Dougal explains to the audience. In a small exchange with the musician, Raphael tells how he stayed with his family in Montreal. He became a Montrealer in less than a year and his daughter goes to school here. It took some 15 years to not only make that move, but not even own an apartment here!

At first, during a concert at the same venue in 2022, Rafael, or his ill-advised advisors, saw fit to play Venezuelan fibres. But the question “Who are we?” Addressed to the OSM and to its leader, it invites responses other than reductive postcards.

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Therefore, Formula 2023 is more than an interesting form of response: an atmosphere recognizable to the public, a singer (Isabelle Leonard) brilliant from all points of view, courageous pieces ( imaginary by Waxman) and a wonderfully accessible symphonic work (Pictures in gallery), as well as a brilliant appearance. Never mind because not everything was perfect, like opening a file The Barber of Seville or the first minutes of Plates. The audience was intrigued, delighted, amazed and amazed.


A point to think about is: how to include music from here without breaking the rhythm of the evening. Essentially, finding a middle ground between what we called OM’s “ostentatious diversity” and this kind of “traditional” program.

Among the other angles of perfection: the visual production, which isn’t very innovative, is often too focused on instrumentalists and lacks a bit of means (Baba Yaga without the bass drum framing, for example). We find that the work done at Lanaudière allows us to better follow the concert. It was also necessary to find a way to place the titles of the paintings as they unfolded in Mussorgsky’s score: the technical means are there, as the words for the arias were projected.

As we said, amplification is anything but musical. Can we look this space with more sincerity? It is colorful and noisy. OM had no problem doing better in 2022. In 2023, something also went wrong with the sound system at Mount Royal, but Parc’s case looks hopeless and has musical implications, not only on the timbre, but also, for example in Waxman, Where we didn’t hear the counter-melody for the strings, it was squashed behind the “super-huge” solo violin.

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There remains, ultimately, the question of location. Michel Labrecque, President and CEO of the Olympic Facilities Council, was high at the microphone before the concert in an article by The Olympics Journalism It is supposedly dealing, according to him, with “the importance of bringing the orchestra to the people” (his reading of Catherine Perrin’s text is not ours, it doesn’t really deal with that subject).

The CEO would do well to take into account, with the responsible city officials, the importance of ease of access for bringing people to the orchestra and its facilities on Wednesdays. Bringing thousands of spectators into the enclosure in rows of two like suave and disciplined schoolchildren extended the queue for entry, half an hour before the event, by almost a kilometer. The crowd — which OSM no longer delivers numbers, because even at maximum capacity (as was the case on Wednesday), the site doesn’t offer Mount Royal potential — proved docile and patient.

Anyway, seeing OSM covered in this way (around 35,000 to 40,000) and having access to a site that turns into a hoax or pensum will cause a reconsideration of event composition? This question may now be asked.

OSM in Olympic Park Esplanade

Rossini: The Barber of Seville, Overture and Aria “Una voce poco fa”. Waxman: Carmen Fantasy. Bizet: Habanera and Séguedille extracts from Carmen. Mussorgsky: Pictures at the Gallery (Orc. Raphael). Isabelle Leonard (mezzo), Pomsuri (violin), Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Raphael Payer. Wednesday, August 16, 2023.

Let’s see in the video