Way back in October, I purchased one ticket to go see “Riopelle Symphonique” at the Théâtre Wilfrid-Laurier (the largest of the five halls) within Place des Arts and the day finally arrived for me to go a week ago, today. I had just seen “Sans Paroles Harmonium Symphonique”, with my buddy Julie, which was a symphonic interpretation of the the music of Harmonium, a Québécois group I was very into in high school. It was an enjoyable experience, so I figured why not see what the same co-creators, Serge Fiori (formerly of the said group) and Nicolas Lemieux and new guy Blair Thompson did with this one. My father had admired Jean-Paul Riopelle’s work as an artist so I knew the name, and I figured, hell, if nothing else, I’ll learn a bit about this artist and, if I don’t care for it, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is always a treat. This year is the centennial of Riopelle’s birth, ergo, the celebration.
I skipped dining downtown and went directly to the show, which started at 8:00. Some putz blocked the street I needed to go up to to park in the underground parking lot so I drove around and was lucky enough to find one on the street. Bonus! $15 saved (providing I didn’t get a parking ticket!)
I live on the South Shore of Montreal so I don’t always know what’s going on in town. I might hear of something but outta sight, outta mind, and all that. What a pleasant surprise to see a bunch of bright lights! I determine immediately that I would meander after the show and take in the sites.
Got to my nosebleeder seat…. Oy! With no zoom on my phone, this is how far I was to the stage…. hellllloooooooo down there….
The curtains opened and we had the whole MSO and two choirs (Petits Chanteurs de Laval and Choeur Temps Fort) on either side of it! I couldn’t quite understand the conductor, Adam Johnson’s outfit… It was not a classic tux and tails, It was a white tux with… um… feathers? Apparently, Riopelle was a huge fan of geese and.. yeah, I don’t get that part.
The music started and it was quite lovely, two of the three screens descended and… ah hell. All of us up in the balcony start murmuring our displeasure. It bugged me to no end that, in creating this piece, they did not take the time to come up to the balcony and see what we would see. I promise you it is the only “illegal” photo I took during the show because I was thinking of you, dear readers, and wanted to show you what I saw. Oh, and thankfully, that fat head to the left sat a little lower later on…
Those damn spotlights.
I know, I know, get over it. But still.
How much more enjoyable it would have been to see the above, eh? It took us a while to resign ourselves to not seeing the art properly and just enjoy the music. I did. Mostly. This was like a play in five acts, with the disembodied voice of the artist, through various interviews joining two sections. You could hear him drawing on his ever-present smoke as he spoke.
He was a “stream of conscious” painter. He worked on one piece from beginning to end in one session. No touching up, no coming back to do anything whatsoever the next day. And he could not stand to be watched while painting either.
“Dans l’exécution, je n’ai pas de temps à perdre à chercher. Il faut que ça marche tout de suite. Je n’aime pas faire le spectacle. S’il y a un spectateur, il y a une distraction. Je ne pourrais pas le supporter.”
My translation: In the execution, I don’t have time to waste searching. It has to work right away. I don’t like to perform. If there is a spectator, there is a distraction. I could never stand it.
I had to laugh at one point when we heard him explain that he was an EXpressionist and not an IMpressionist (having a complete disdain for the genre) “..as they are liars. Unlike them, I paint what I see…” Nkay…
He was an interesting artist and extremely successful in his lifetime – way back in the 60’s paintings could go for anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 and more.
He also got into sculpture. I’m not a fan but hey, art and subjectivity and all that 🙂
I am happy I went to see this, though in all honesty, I am not sophisticated enough to appreciate the joining of the music with the art. The music changed for each of the five sections to purportedly match the different eras of his art, but, to me, it didn’t feel quite so. I read a few reviews after the day after, and it appears I was not alone. One said, and I paraphrase : “The music could have been for anything, including a biopic of Maurice Richard (hockey player) or some historical saga. The music, while competent enough, does not detract from the lovely visual, but that it would not be the reason to see the show, nor buy the soundrack.” Maybe I am not as unsophisticated as I thought?
I made my way down the crowded staircase and finally out the door for some welcome fresh air. There was much gaiety all around. I discovered that it was “Montréal en lumières” or Montreal in Lights. Quite the fête, let me tell you. It was still going strong at 9:30 p.m. on a Thursday night. And since I’ve already taken up way too much of your time, I shall just leave you with a few pics 🙂
And a short video. There was dancing and skating, too (I didn’t go up to the rink…)
On my way home, I passed in front of this sculpture. The traffic light serendipitously turned red, so I opened my passenger window, leaned over and… click! (I had never seen it lit up, couldn’t pass up the chance, eh?)