The Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil (OSDL) is celebrating spring with Carl Orff’s renowned Carmina Burana. The concert will bring together OSDL musicians, the St. Lambert Choral Society, Les Petits Chanteurs de Laval and soloists Raphaëlle Paquette (soprano), Antoine Bélanger (tenor) and Marc Boucher (baritone). They will be led by OSDL artistic director Marc David, who describes Carmina Burana as “one of those grandiose works of the symphonic repertoire dealing with a universal theme, where listeners, singers, musicians and conductors are satisfied.”
This seminal work was composed in 1935 and premiered in 1937 in Frankfurt. The text comprises 24 medieval poems that deal with various subjects, always with a touch of humor: destiny, wealth, spring, pleasure, etc. “It is a work that is quite jocular where you have a lot of fun and do not take yourself too seriously,” says Boucher. “It’s satirical and pictorial.” Bélanger adds: “What’s interesting is that it seems very serious when you listen to it, but in the end it’s not at all!”
The eroticism of many of the poems offended Nazi rulers at the time, but the work carved itself a prominent place in the repertoire and became the most popular piece of its era.
David will lead Carmina Burana for the sixth time. His enthusiasm is undiminished. “When we resume the repertoire we have already managed,” he says, “we benefit from our experience and a certain distance from the score. This allows us to go further in our understanding of the work.
“Working with different soloists and choirs makes each concert a unique experience, both for us on stage and for listeners.” The St. Lambert Choral Society is a long-time partner of the OSDL. The Petits Chanteurs de Laval will join the orchestra for the first time.
Carmina Burana was originally conceived as a stage work with dance. Usually, however, it is given in concert as a secular cantata. This will be the case in the concert presented by the OSDL. The composition is divided into three central sections: Primo vere (Spring), In Taberna (In the tavern) and Cour d’amours (Erotic songs). These are surrounded at the beginning and end by the famous O Fortuna! chorus that has been used in many movies and commercials.
The work is characterized by stark rhythmic changes and harmony that was simple for the time. This simplicity comes from the composer’s desire to make his creation accessible to the public. “Carmina Burana has something very ‘primary,’ very rhythmic, and built on melodic motifs borrowed from the Gregorian style,” says Boucher.
David is delighted by his soloists: “All three are experienced artists who have already sung Carmina Burana and possess the qualities necessary to deliver the wide range of expression required by the score.” David points out that despite its apparent simplicity, Carmina Burana remains a demanding work, especially for the baritone, who sings in seven of the 11 movements involving soloists.
Boucher looks on the bright side: “For a baritone, it is a gift. It’s really sweet. The baritone is spoiled and can enjoy the experience. The part exploits all registers of the voice. We use falsetto and at the same time seek a lot of roundness, many nuances.”
Comparing the tenor solo to a runner who must do 100 metres without breaking a sweat, Bélanger says: “It’s an aria in the middle of the work, pitched very high. The composer put it there to make it look difficult because the character is actually a goose that is being roasted. It’s not happy! There is no room for error, but certainly a bit of self-deprecation and a lot of fun.”
The program will be completed by the Bacchanale of Saint-Saëns. Conceived as ballet music for the opera Samson et Dalila, the Bacchanale is filled with mystery. Beginning with a demanding solo oboe, it depicts an orgiastic scene where the senses are awakened to the sound of exotic and sensual melodies, comparable to the eroticism present in Carmina Burana.
Carmina Burana will be presented by the OSDL at Salle Pratt & Whitney Canada in Longueuil
on April 25 and 26 at 8 p.m.
Translation by Viviane Reid