Home Uncategorized Colourful performance makes Etoile shine

Colourful performance makes Etoile shine

by Archives November 16, 2005

Emmanuel Chabrier’s Etoile, now playing at Place Des Arts, shows us that opera can be bright, in every sense of the word.

Anyone who equates opera with a serious performance of heavy, emotional songs in a foreign language would be pleasantly surprised by the Opera de Montreal production of Etoile. A cross between classic opera and a Gilbert and Sullivan musical, Etoile offers the audience a light take on an old style of entertainment.

The moment the curtain is raised to reveal the colourful, whacky set design, the audience is aware that this performance of Etoile is going to be anything but traditional. With huge wavy-shaped mirrors lining the walls and light-projecting disco balls hanging from the ceiling, set designers have created a fun-house type of atmosphere for the operatic piece.

The costumes are just as bright as the background and characters seem to thoroughly enjoy their, sometimes clown-like, colourful get ups.

The energy of the performers in Etoile is absolutely incredible. Singers run and dance about the stage while hitting incredibly challenging notes with absolute perfection. A comedic flourish underlies each move the performers make and the audience is with them every moment of the show.

The story line of Etoile is simple yet cleverly delivered. King Ouf is determined to find a victim for the execution he wants to hold at his upcoming birthday celebration. He finds a young peddler who, having lost his one true love, seems willing to give up his life for the celebratory cause. Through a sequence of confused events the two characters lives become inextricably entwined and the result is a hilarious mix-up of fake identities and misunderstood intentions.

Universal themes of marriage, love and deception in Etoile speak to the audience, while other themes had a particular Canadian sensibility. King Ouf laments the difficulty he has in finding a subject who will slander his government. A suspicion of government corruption, Ouf says, is something he expected was common among citizens. Audience members at Place Des Arts chuckled at the timeliness of Ouf’s remarks.

Frederic Antoun brings superior comedic timing to his role as King Ouf. Co-starts Michele Losier and Marie-Josee Lord are equally amusing to watch. Without using an overly slapstick approach to comedy, the performers rely on a careful balance of physical and intellectual humour that is inherent in the piece.

Chabrier’s lyrics are written in French, and both French and English surtitles play during the Opera de Montreal production. While the lines have a wonderful rhyming quality in their original language, they are well translated for anglophone audience members to enjoy as well.

The musical scores are lively and very well-suited to the energy of the piece. They are excellently performed by musicians of the Orchestre Metropolitain du Grand Montreal, led by conductor and chorus master Jean-Marie Zeitouni.

Opera de Montreal is making a big effort to attract younger audiences this year. With reduced-rate subscriptions for people aged 18 to 30 and a new TechnOpera program of multimedia opera-inspired creative shows, they are trying to reach out to a new clientele. A show like Etoile proves the opera is not just for the old, the intellectual, or the culturally snobbish. Etoile is a vibrant piece and Montrealers should count their lucky stars for having the chance to catch its fleeting spark!

Etoile plays Nov. 17 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. For information call (514) 985-2258 or visit the website at www.operademontreal.com

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