Tell us about Il suffit d’un peu d’air
This was the first collaboration between Chants Libres and le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne and it wasn’t the simplest. Claude Ballif’s music, which uses a lot of microtonality, made for a lot of challenges. Luckily, the expressive qualities of the piece; the interesting text (by Renald Tremblay), which oscillated between funny, poetic and absurd; and the friendship and implication of all of our artists both on and off the stage, made it possible for us to work through the difficulties of the score.

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What were the main issues?
To make the microtonality natural… the opera being over two hours long- bringing together the voices and the strings required a real virtuosity of listening! For the musicians in the ensemble, Ballif, who rarely used tutti playing, demanded of them a very particular focus. Their interventions were sometimes very sporadic; it required immense precision.

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What did you think of the final result?
When it came time for the performances, the quality of the work we had done and the quality of the performers did justice to the piece. We were immersed in the microtonality from the beginning and tended to quickly forget about it, becoming captivated by the telling of the story. The solo instrumental bridges that linked the scenes together then allowed us to appreciate the microtonality in all of its splendour.

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An anecdote about Il suffit d’un peu d’air
It is to this day the only Chants Libres collaboration with a foreign composer, Claude Ballif. But there will soon be a second one- L’Orangeraie, an opera by the French-Lebanese composer Zad Moultaka, based on a text by Larry Tremblay.

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