Magazine article Opera Canada

Jacques Lacombe

Magazine article Opera Canada

Jacques Lacombe

Article excerpt

JACQUES LACOMBE HAS at least one thing in common with many other Canadian conductors: no current contract to appear at the Metropolitan Opera, though he has appeared there before. But he might be the only Canadian conductor who has turned down the big house twice. "There was something for next year I couldn't do because I was already hired in Turin," the 42-year-old explains in the Green Room of Place des Arts in downtown Montreal. "And then they offered me something else I could not do, again because of Turin."

Why not tell Turin that something better had come up? "Some people do that," Lacombe says. "I don't. Once you start that, when do you stop? You are at the Met, then Covent Garden calls you for a world premiere? I said 'no,' and I hope I have respect from the Met for showing integrity."

He already has respect from the New York temple as a quick study and excellent podium communicator. On Dec. 14, 2003, Lacombe, in Paris, received an urgent call to fill in for an ailing Michel Plasson in Massenet's Werther, with Roberto Alagna in the title role. Two days later he was in New York, starting rehearsals for a full run, including a Saturday broadcast.

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When something like that goes well, good things happen. The Met engaged him for Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus in 2005-2006, including the celebrated New Year's Eve performance, and made the first of the two 2006-2007 offers he felt he had to refuse. Then the Deutsche Oper called the Met to inquire after this capable Canadian. The result was his Berlin debut last October in Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande. Lacombe thanked Met rehearsal chief Jonathan Friend for his recommendation. "The guy knows the piece," was apparently the sum of it.

Lacombe has long been established in and around Montreal--where he lives with his American wife, Janet--as a guy who knows the piece. Music director from 1991 of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, he was also a superb chorusmaster in the 1990s for L'Opera de Montreal. So far, that company has rewarded him with several productions, including Werther, Die Fledermaus, La traviata and Ariadne auf Naxos. From 1994-98, Lacombe was the associate conductor of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. He demonstrated his phenomenal memory and musical powers to the satisfaction of everyone. …

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