Sunday, April 8, 2012

I saw the Angel in the Marble...

Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Léon Gérôme

New baroque opera company to present inaugural performance April 13 and 14, at the Rialto Theatre, Montreal.

...and carved until I set it free.

It seems Montreal is never short of enterprising artists. 

Next week, the Collectif Baroque Mont-Royal will present its first production, complete with baroque orchestra: Rameau's acte de ballet, Pygmalion. An ambitious undertaking for the two directors, David Menzies and Susan Toman, who have been chipping away since the summer; Pygmalion will be fully-staged and will be accompanied by its own baroque orchestra.

Over the past few months, David and Susan have brought together many young artists from a range of disciplines for their inaugural performance. Beyond the musicians, who make up the bulk of those contributing to the show, are dancers, costume designers, a sculptor, and stage director. All together on paper, the collective will start rehearsing in the Rialto Theater come Monday.

The theater, which runs shows almost daily, has been of great help recently, both with promotion and ticket sales. Though the collective can't get into the space any earlier, due to the heavy usage of the venue, "we've been working guerrilla style," says David, "everyone has been working on their part of the show so that we only need to put it together." 

Interestingly, the theater will be set-up in two ways: the traditional seating plan in the balcony, and cabaret seating below. "It'll be a great atmosphere," notes David, "everyone will get to sit the way they want...and I think the cabaret seating will be attractive to younger audiences...have I mentioned there's a bar too?" The choice in seating hints at their attempt to attract two age groups. Naturally, the draw of the collective centers around their age group, that is to say people in their 20s and early 30s, yet they have done quite a bit of extra promotional work.

This past January, some of the musicians presented a few fundraising concerts in supporters' homes to help raise awareness, and the company coffers. A clever move in hindsight, there seems to have been much gained from those small events. David notes that since "'planting the seed'...people have donated towards the project knowing we can't offer them tax receipts," which shows that the collective's enthusiasm is clearly rubbing their audience the right way. 

Being a french acte de ballet, naturally, dance features prominently. Les Jardins Choréographiques, Montreal's resident baroque dance company directed by Marie-Natalie Lacoursière, have partnered with the collective for the event. A true delight to behold, I had the pleasure of working with them at the Festival Montréal Baroque last year  and I would highly recommend you go see them if given the opportunity.

A great opportunity to display the work of a local sculptor, the collective have brought in Geneviève Chevalier, who will be displaying a vernissage at the show on top of providing the center of Pigmalion's affections. Though the opera will be a little short (about an hour and a half), Chevalier`s display and the party that will no doubt follow the performance (at the theater bar!) will certainly round out the evening. 

Unfortunately for David and Susan, months of work will culminate in only two public performances. However, the community that they have cultivated will certainly reap future rewards. "I hope that this will become at least an annual event," says David, who is already looking into grants and incorporating the collective as a charitable organization. Though the future is still a bit hazy in their eyes, one thing is certain: their vision of the potential in their peers was crystal clear. 
So if you're in Montreal next Friday or Saturday, take a look at what the next generation of Montreal's artists are up to.

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