LA BEAUTÉ DU MONDE (The Beauty of the World): A new work by Michel Marc Bouchard et Julien Bilodeau at the Opéra de Montréal

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Montreal, February 8, 2018 – The Opéra de Montréal announces the world premiere of La beauté du monde (The Beauty of the World), an original work with a libretto by Michel Marc Bouchard and music by Julien Bilodeau, which will be presented in Montreal in the spring of 2021. This project was born following the May 2016 premiere of the opera Les Feluettes at the Opéra de Montréal. Renowned playwright Michel Marc Bouchard, who has recently also become a librettist, approached the institution’s Artistic Director Michel Beaulac with a deeply moving true story on which he wanted to base a new work. Composer Julien Bilodeau quickly joined the project, spurred by the success of the world premiere of Another Brick in The Wall – The Opera, and recently named Composer of the Year at the Opus Awards on February 4.

THE WORK

La beauté du monde pays tribute to the men and women who staved off the torments of history to protect the most eloquent and admirable works of art ever created by humankind. Deeply troubled by the recent affront on the Palmyra archaeological site, the ransacking of the Mosul Museum in Iraq, and the destruction of major works of Byzantine and Mesopotamian art in the Middle-East, Michel Marc Bouchard decided to write an opera reminding us of the importance of art in our lives, of keeping art accessible, and protecting it.

Synopsis

As early as 1939, fearing the German advance with its bombing and pillaging, Jacques Jaujard, the director of France’s national museums, personally organizes the removal of major pieces from the Louvre and the safe storage of its collections. Thousands of masterpieces are taken off the walls, out of their display cases, or off their bases, and are wrapped by an army of volunteers. As the Germans advance on Paris, a cohort of gods and goddesses, saints, and kings and queens are in exile along the roads of France. The Mona Lisa, incognito, is part of the convoy.

For her part, Rose Valland, the former director of the Jeu de Paume Museum, is relegated to the role of caretaker. In secret, she collects and compiles all the meaningful information she can about Jewish-owned private collections that have been seized by the Germans. Hermann Göring, Marshal of the German Empire, visits the Jeu de Paume dozens of times, selecting thousands of pieces for his personal collection, including works by Matisse, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Renoir. Works of modern—so-called degenerate—art are relegated to a room that Rose Valland refers to as the “Martyrs’ Room.” In May 1943, underscoring the rejection of this degenerate art, the Germans destroy over 500 pieces by Miró, Klee, Ernst, Léger, and Picasso.

At the end of the war, through the efforts and the instinct of Jacques Jaujard, all of the works from the Louvre are returned to their rightful place in the museum. Thanks to Rose Valland’s work and notes, over 60,000 works plundered mainly from Jewish owners are returned home.

OPÉRA DE MONTRÉAL: modern works and classics, side by side

After having presented 21st century works for the past five seasons, the Opéra de Montréal recognizes its audience’s great interest in modern operas, which comfortably coexist alongside classics of the repertoire, for both fans and neophytes. These new works, true adventures that attract a diverse pool of artists and focus on extremely varied themes, demonstrate the extent to which opera is a relevant, wide-ranging, and profoundly modern art form.

New works presented in the last five years

2018 – Svabda, by Ana Sokolovic

2018 – JFK, by David T. Little and Royce Vavrek

2017 – Another Brick in The Wall – The Opera, by composer Julien Bilodeau, after the words and music of The Wall by Roger Waters

2016 – Les Feluettes, by Michel Marc Bouchard and Kevin March

2015 – Silent Night, by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell

2014 – Dead Man Walking, by Jake Heggie

History of world premieres at the company

2017 – Another Brick in The Wall – The Opera, by composer Julien Bilodeau, after the words and music of The Wall by Roger Waters

2016 – Les Feluettes, by Michel Marc Bouchard and Kevin March

2002 – Thérèse Raquin, by Tobias Picker

1990 – Nelligan, by André Gagnon and Michel Tremblay

THE CREATORS

Librettist – Michel Marc Bouchard (Canada) 

After the world premiere of the opera Les Feluettes, it is with renewed enthusiasm that I am continuing to work with the Opéra de Montréal. I feel doubly privileged because I also have the honour of working with the prodigious composer Julien Bilodeau.” – Michel Marc Bouchard

Playwright, screenwriter, and exhibition curator Michel Marc Bouchard has written some twenty plays including Les Feluettes (Lilies), Les Muses orphelines (The Orphan Muses), L’Histoire de l’oie (The Tale of Teeka), Le Chemin des passes dangereuses (Down Dangerous Passes Road), and, most recently, Tom à la ferme (Tom at the Farm), Christine, la reine-garçon (The Girl King), and La Divine illusion (The Divine). His works, translated into more than fifteen languages, have been performed in major theatres in Quebec, Canada, and abroad, as well as at some of the most renowned international festivals. A recipient of the National Arts Centre Award, the Chalmers Award, the Dora Mavor Moore Award, the Prix de l’Association québécoise des critiques de théâtre, the Primo Arte Candoni (Italy), the Prix de SACD (Paris), and the Lambda Literary Award (New-York), he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2005, a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Québec in 2012, and a member of the Académie des Lettres du Québec in 2015.

His plays Les Feluettes, Les Muses orphelines, L’Histoire de l’oie (Gémeau for Best Dramatic Work, 1998), Les Grandes chaleurs, Tom à la ferme (Critics Award, Venice Film Festival, 2013), and The Girl King have been adapted for the screen. After having written Les Feluettes, his first opera libretto for the Opéra de Montréal, Michel Marc Bouchard is currently at work on his second opera, an adaptation of The Girl King for the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto.

Further information: www.michelmarcbouchard.com 

Composer – Julien Bilodeau (Canada)

It is a great privilege for me to work with Michel Marc Bouchard and the Opéra de Montréal on this visionary and ambitious project for a new work that is universal in scope. Michel Marc Bouchard’s poetry has provided me with musical inspiration for several months now and it continues to fuel it, much to my great delight.” – Julien Bilodeau

Julien Bilodeau was born in Quebec City in 1974. He graduated from the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, then spent five years in France and Germany before returning to Montreal to pursue his career as a composer. Known for his rich, varied, and open aesthetics, his preference for the symphonic repertoire has enabled him to work with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (K. Nagano), the Orchestre Métropolitain (Y. Nézet-Séguin), the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, the Orchestre de la Francophonie (J-P. Tremblay), the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (L. Vaillancourt), Ensemble Itinéraire (Paris), I Musici (J-M. Zeitouni), and the Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt). He is currently credited with over 30 works, including Another Brick in The Wall – The Opera, a composition for which he recently received an Opus Award for Composer of the Year from the Conseil Québécois de la Musique.

Further information: julienbilodeau.com

About the Opéra de Montréal

Founded in 1980 and based in Montreal, the Opéra de Montréal is the largest francophone opera company in North America. Last season, close to 70,000 spectators made their way through the company’s doors. Under the direction of General Director Patrick Corrigan and Artistic Director Michel Beaulac, the company’s season is made up of four operas, a production by the Atelier lyrique, and outreach activities. The Opéra is a key player in the city’s economic, cultural, and social development as, each season, it maintains working relationships with over 360 local businesses, and hires no less than 800 artists and craftspeople. Close to 80% of the artists appearing at the company are Canadian.

Further information: operademontreal.com

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