The Canadian premiere
of the opera Twenty-Seven
Picasso, Hemingway and Fitzgerald, from Paris to Montreal, at the Centaur
The Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal is proud to present the Canadian premiere of Twenty-Seven, by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Royce Vavrek. This opera transports spectators to the most famous Parisian salon of the 20th century – that of Gertrude Stein – frequented by young Hemingway, Picasso, Fitzgerald, and other artists of the “lost generation” early in their careers. The great creative artists of future days, well before they were known as such, reinvented the world of art and literature with Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas, as the world approached a precipice…
To recreate the ambience of this legendary time and place, this “salon opera” will be presented in the intimate setting of the Centaur Theatre, featuring the finest young Canadian singers, most of whom are from the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal program, as well as the duo made up of cellist Stéphane Tétreault and pianist Marie-Ève Scarfone. While operas can be impressive on a grand scale in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, the same holds true in a space like the Centaur, which allows for a unique “up-close” connection with the singers.
This production of Twenty-Seven, staged by Oriol Tomas, is inspired by cubism and will offer a perfect backdrop, against which the Paris of the 1920s and 30s will be brought back to life. The Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal has recently witnessed the resounding impact of its more intimate opera experiences: Svadba, presented to sold-out houses last season, won the Opus Award for Musical Event of the Year in February.
The team for Twenty-Seven showcases the remarkable talent of young Canadian singers, many of whom are members or past members of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal’s advanced training program. Enjoying an enviable career in Europe, Acadian mezzo-soprano Christianne Bélanger is returning to Montreal to perform the role of Gertrude Stein, on an alternating basis with mezzo-soprano Rose Naggar-Tremblay. Sopranos Elizabeth Polese and Andrea Núñez, two exciting artists currently at the Atelier lyrique, take turns performing the role of Alice B. Toklas.
Alongside them are several current and past Atelier members: Rocco Rupolo (Pablo Picasso), Sebastian Haboczki (Francis Scott Fitzgerald), Spencer Britten (Doughboy), Nathan Keoughan (Leo Stein), Pierre Rancourt (Henri Matisse), and Scott Brooks (Man Ray).
Accompanying the singers is the duo made up of cellist Stéphane Tétreault and pianist Marie-Ève Scarfone, who is also the show’s Musical Director. Sets by Simon Guilbault, costumes by Oleksandra Lykova, lighting by Martin Sirois, and videos by Félix Fradet-Faguy highlight the subtlety and depth of the stage direction by Oriol Tomas, who has just returned from his debut as a stage director at the Icelandic Opera.
The story: The salon that shaped 20th century art
In their Parisian salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas welcomed individuals who would go on to become the greatest artists of the era: Hemingway, Picasso, Matisse, and Fitzgerald. The famous lesbian couple led an idealistic, avant-garde life, in which art and intelligence came before all else, but the context of the two World Wars would alter the quick wit and sense of mischief that was part of their daily lives.
The work: A universal experience
Twenty-Seven was created in 2014 for mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, who had dreamt of portraying Gertrude Stein on stage. The Opera Theatre of St. Louis commissioned the work from American composer Ricky Ian Gordon and Canadian librettist Royce Vavrek, both of whom are very much in demand across North America.
In his own words, as reported by journalist Shawn E. Milnes, Ricky Ian Gordon explains that Stein had the raw material to make for an ideal opera protagonist: “Her whole life is this big, fabulous ‘f— you’. She just was who she was whether you liked it or not until she became one of the most famous people in history.” (The Daily Beast, 2016)
He continues in an interview with the Opéra de Montréal, explaining that he feels the work is “the love story of the 20th century; and not only is this a love between two women, it’s also the love of art as we know it today.”
Twenty-Seven by Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek
Genre: chamber opera
Structure: 5 acts
Language: English with English and French surtitles
Libretto: Royce Vavrek
Premiere: St. Louis, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, 2014
Production: Productions ODM Inc.
At the Centaur Theatre
March 23, 26, 28, and 30, 2019 at 7:30 pm
March 24 and 31, 2019 at 2 pm
Opéra de Montréal box office: 514-985-2258
1 877 385-2222
Centaur Theatre box office: 514 288-3161
Images: courtesy of Opéra de Montréal
Read also: other articles about Opéra de Montréal
Opéra de Montréal
Well-established in Montreal, at the crossroads of North American and European culture, the Opéra de Montréal acts as a catalyst for the city’s artistic creativity and celebrates Quebec and Canada’s rich vocal heritage, showcasing opera at its most diverse and daring. From great classics of the opera repertoire and innovative new works from home and abroad, to a training program for the finest young Canadian singers and a strong commitment to the community and to education, the Opéra de Montréal offers unforgettable operatic events at which everyone is warmly received and feels welcome.
Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal
An artist residency for opera singers and pianist-vocal coaches, the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal training program serves as a springboard to professional life by focusing on excellence and encouraging autonomy and career development.