Magazine article Opera Canada

Bernard Labadie

Magazine article Opera Canada

Bernard Labadie

Article excerpt

The July 1994 announcement that Bernard Labadie had been appointed musical and artistic director of the fledgling Opera de Quebec was met with raised eyebrows in certain musical circles in Canada. Labadie's musical qualities were certainly not at issue; it was simply that he had little or no experience in the world of opera. However, in the last six years, Labadie has, notwithstanding a few reservations, justified the confidence the Opera de Quebec board placed in him.

In retrospect, it was a bold appointment. Labadie was barely 30 when he took the position. He had studied the recorder and singing before devoting himself to choir and orchestra conducting. Then, after having graduated from Laval University and from both the Quebec and Montreal conservatories, he had perfected his conducting craft with Simon Streatfield and Pierre Dervaux.

His 1994 appointment not only marked the beginning of a new artistic direction for Labadie but also for the company, which was founded in December 1983. L'Opera de Quebec had been established only months before the youthful Labadie had created the chamber orchestra, Les Violons du Roy. The following year, he founded the complementary choral group, La Chapelle de Quebec. In less than a decade, Les Violons du Roy had undoubtedly become, under Labadie's forceful and enterprising direction, one of Canada's foremost chamber orchestras.

Thus, when he was appointed musical and artistic director of L'Opera de Quebec in 1994, Labadie's musical credentials were impeccable. He brought the same sense of urgency and energy that continues to characterize Les Violons du Roy. Labadie's orchestral and musical preparation have always been exemplary, and he has demonstrated a particular affinity and developed a striking rapport with young musicians and singers.

His mandate had been to enlarge the company's repertory and rejuvenate the existing production standards and aesthetics. This he has managed to do--but only to a certain degree. The repertoire has remained decidedly mainstream, including Carmen, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, La Traviata, Cosi fan Tutte, Le Nozze di Figaro and Faust. More significantly, seven of the works (nine, if one includes next season's two productions) produced by L'Opera de Quebec since Labadie's arrival had already been presented by the company between 1985 and 1994.

Part of the explanation lies in Labadie's operatic inexperience; he has been learning on the job, although his learning curve has been impressively high. L'OdeQ usually presents two productions per season, and Labadie is always at the musical controls. …

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