World Beauty Review | When art vibrates

It is a privilege for both critics and the public to be present at the birth of a great Quebec opera. More like with a rich job The beauty of the world By Julien Bilodeau and Michel-Marc Bouchard, premiered Saturday evening at the Opera de Montreal.

As soon as they arrived at the hall, the audience was warned that they were in for an emotional evening. Numerous signs and screens warned the public that they would see certain symbols of the Nazi occupation and that they might be startled by explosions (ultimately harmless recordings of gunfire played backstage without one-tenth the impact of the real vacuums sometimes heard in the theater).

It is surprising that this practice is now taking place after centuries of operative murders, suicides and rapes. Especially since science points not only to the ineffectiveness of trauma warnings, but also to their likely harm.

In any case, this is proof that art is disturbing in 2022, on another level – in 1940, but also in 1800, 1400, and we can certainly go back to the Lascaux caves in this way. .

It is also partially the subject The beauty of the worldIt tells the story of the Louvre and the rescue of thousands of French Jewish artifacts during World War II.

Powerful scene

In a powerful second act scene, Hermann Göring, played with righteous perversity by tenor Matthew Dahl, arrives at a famous Paris museum to select canvases for himself and Hitler. According to him, those involved in “degenerate” art (in fact, everything that came after the Impressionists) were set aside and burned.

Because the transitory, inaccessible aspect of modern art did not correspond to the Manichean worldview without the gray shades of Nazi barbarism.

For the two main characters, Jacques Jaujard, director of the Louvre, and Rose Valland, curator of the Musée du Jeu de Paume, art is much more than that, and they are willing to do anything to preserve its transformative power.

Even if we fear for the lives of these occasionally shadowy crusaders, indeed the integrity of the masterpieces of the Louvre and elsewhere keeps us in doubt throughout the three acts. Who would have thought that the unboxing was fake Mona Lisa or canning Victory of Samothrace will it cause such great theatrical emotion?

Creators in particular takes us directly into the mystery of creation with a magnificent prologue that takes place in 1924 when Matisse painted his paintings. Sitting woman for Rosenberg, a Jewish art dealer who gave it to his very young son. Later, during the epilogue, the child, who is seen holding the empty frame, symbolizes the Rosenberg generation, who will restore the canvas only in 2012…

Because it is also about the present tense in this work, especially at the very end of the opera, in the lively climax, which we leave the pleasure of discovering to the readers.

However, despite some relatively unpleasant reservations, we can reveal everything about the overall quality of the commentary. The Orchester Métropolitain, taking its place in the pit under Jean-Marie Zeitouni, for example, would have benefited from an extra rehearsal or two to strengthen certain passages, particularly the orchestral prelude.


It should be noted that Julien Bilodeau’s music is sometimes overwhelming but fascinatingly complex, especially in the writing of wind instruments. The language varies between an impressionistic emphasis in the first act and a more dissonant one reminiscent of the open tone and other things. Wozzeck Berg, especially during Goering’s grotesque impression in the second act.

Although spoken recitative predominates, the score is not devoid of moments of great lyricism, particularly Jaujard, played by bass-baritone Damien Pass, whose timbre is somewhat reminiscent of Thomas Hampson’s, a magnificent discovery.

Other male artists are equally solid, tenor Rocco Rupolo in Alexandre Rosenberg, tenor Isaiah Bell in D.r Bruno Lohse and baritone John Brancy become Franz Wolff-Metternich, secretly guarding French treasures.

Among the women, soprano Layla Claire shines in Jeanne Boitel, and soprano France Bellemare leaves a demanding role with dignity enough, mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy was less comfortable than usual – difficulties in the high tone, shortness of breath – in the decisive role of Rose Valland, it must be said, it sounds too loud for her .

However, they are all excellent on stage, a rare uniformity made possible by the excellent direction of Florent Siaud, the director’s actor, who has achieved something very interesting on a visual level with his team (the magnificent light of the yellow honey third act).

A universal production to be seen and heard on November 26. And why not export to France or elsewhere.

The beauty of the world

The beauty of the world

Libretto by Michel Marc Bouchard, music by Julien Bilodeau, directed by Florent Siaud

November 22, 24 and 27 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier


Posted in Art

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