In the midst of the pandemic, there are few opportunities for artists to gather together on a stage and sing live, but l’Opéra de Québec is looking to change that with its winter season opener, Les Mots/Maux d’Amour on Valentine’s Day 2021.
Bringing together eight young emerging artists, the Gala de la Saint-Valentin is a collection of love arias demonstrating the multiple forms of love, whether that be passionate and idealistic, or betrayed and thwarted. They will be accompanied by l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec under the direction of Jean-Marie Zeitouni.
Tenor Matthew Dalen, one of the eight artists performing on Feb. 14th, has been part of multiple performances throughout the pandemic thanks to his residency with Opéra de Montréal‘s Atelier lyrique. For the Valentine gala, he will sing Lensky’s aria “Kuda, kuda, kuda vi udalilis” from Eugene Onegin, along with a duet from Carmen with soprano France Bellemare.
“It’s been an incredible boost in morale for me and other artists. At a time like this, it’s exciting to have the opportunity to work with others, and I’ve never been so grateful – not only for the connections – but to sing with an orchestra and conductor,” says Dalen.
Bellemare, who will also be singing “Io son l’umile ancella” from Adriana Lecouvreur has been subject to many cancellations because of pandemic since 2020. For her and many other artists right now, being a part of productions like Les Mots/Maux d’Amour is a rare chance to get back on stage.
“It’s a rollercoaster. My biggest contracts have been postponed in 2021. I forgot I was a singer for a few months, but all the performances right now are a blessing [and] I’m thankful to still be calling myself a singer,” says Bellemare.
With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, the performance will be going on without a live audience, however Les Mots/Maux d’Amour will be free to watch on l’Opéra de Québec’s website and YouTube. Performing without an audience has been a big shift for many performers throughout the past year.
“I have to change my expectation of what the moment will be like when performing. There is an unquantifiable magic of having an audience, and with virtual performances that is definitely lacking,” says Dalen.
The classical music industry has shifted itself online in a way that they never thought they would have to this past year. Virtual performances have become the norm, helping to keep the industry going.
“Opera is resilient. We learned how to keep it up and and are trying to build stuff that the industry has never had to before. Places like l’Opéra de Montréal and l’Opéra de Québec raised me as a young artist, and I’m impressed to see how no one is leaving anyone to suffer alone because we are all in this together,” says Bellemare.
It’s fitting that l’Opéra de Québec’s winter season opener will offer stories of love in a time of dismay around the world, and even more fitting that these opera artists get the opportunity to share in the experience together on Valentine’s Day as we mark a long year apart since the pandemic.
“Opera is a good medium for love stories because of the ability to communicate visceral emotion to an audience. Love is a grand thing, and so is opera,” says Dalen.
More information for the Gala de Saint-Valentin on Feb. 14, 2021 can be found here https://operadequebec.com/.