The art of the impossible

by ANTOINE LÉVEILLÉE

Soprano Audrey Luna is not afraid of challenges and is ready to interpret the most demanding role of her career. The coloratura is fearless.

The experience is intense. American soprano Audrey Luna, who will perform the role of Ariel in the opera The Tempest, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play by the composer and conductor Thomas Adès will be immersed in this new production created by Robert Lepage, which incorporates advanced technology and where the main actors are physically challenged in exceptional ways. “I was told I would be high in the air in some way, and of course I said” no problem! “But I never thought I would get to work with acrobats. This was exciting news for me! “

This new opera will bring Lepage back to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where The Tempest will travel after the world debut in Quebec. Not only is their bold staging (costumes, by Kim Barrett, who created the costumes on The Matrix films), but the score written for her role as Ariel, is particularly demanding. The coloratura will even do gymnastics with her voice. “Thomas Adès has written music for Ariel to emphasize its supernatural character. Ariel does not sound like a human being, it doesn’t sound of this world. The composer’s intention was to make an illustration of the role and the result is striking. Sometimes I’m amazed that I am able to make these sounds with the voice! For example, if you isolate the most difficult passages of Queen of the Night [ Die Zauberflöte, Mozart] and all the other most difficult parts in all the most challenging coloratura roles in the repertoire then this is the role of Ariel, but not just in the aria, but all the time. It’s a very exciting role to listen to, but especially to perform!”

This enigmatic character seems to fill the soprano, who is accustomed to contemporary music, with happiness and she addresses the dramatic character of Ariel as a challenge of theatrical composition. “Ariel is not human, it is a spirit made of air. Ariel has no gender, it is superhuman and powerful, but at the same time it is subject to the will of the powerful magician Prospero [baritone Rodney Gilfry ], who imposes his will on it. All Ariel wants is to be free. The layers of this character are fascinating. It is flamboyant, yet heartfelt and also wise.”

Having already experienced some challenges earlier in her career with Queen of the Night or Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss, Audrey Luna (winner of the competition Renata Tebaldi in San Marino in 2009) admits that this production is a new level of vision in which the director Lepage uses a technology that speaks to our time. “It has happened to me to have a director who asked me to sing lying on the back, it is not so complicated, but here I am usually perched on an acrobats’ hand or other platform 25 feet in the air while contorting and singing all at the same time! There is a small scene where Ariel is transformed into an evil harpy. “That’s when I found myself 25 feet in the air with only a harness and a single cable as I flew through the air singing some of the highest notes in the opera, but I’m not alone! There is also a chandelier that is so heavy, it takes over a dozen stagehands to move it.  I am attached to this chandelier at a 45 degree angle as I swing in the air. When you see the result, you think it’s not possible! Maybe in a movie, but not the opera!”

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The master stroke of Grégoire Legendre

Created by Robert Lepage is found in Quebec before being produced at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.  Artistic Director of the Opera Festival of Quebec, Grégoire Legendre , has much to be proud of this second edition to be held from July 25 to August 5. “What I want the public to realize is that The Tempest is a co-production between the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera and the Opéra de Québec. This is the first time an opera house in Canada has the privilege to be associated with these two prestigious opera companies. Lepage is creating this new project with him, and we will have the chance to show it to Quebec before everyone else!”

With Thomas Adès at the helm of the orchestra, the distribution is complete. In addition, Grégoire Legendre became a point of honor to engage performers in Quebec and Canada, including Frédéric Antoun (tenor, the role of Caliban) and Julie Boulianne (mezzo-soprano, the role of Miranda). “We have the talent here, and even Thomas Adès is charmed by this distribution, he noted. This is an international production and it is exceptional visibility for all these singers.”