Six operas in the making to be discovered in one concert! This is the vast challenge taken up by Chants Libres for the 6thedition of Oper’Actuel – Works in Progress 2019 at Le Gesù on March 16 and 17.

This free event started in 1998 by Pauline Vaillancourt, founder and artistic director of Chants Libres, gives the public the opportunity to discover and enjoy excerpts from six operas in the making. “For the creators, composers and librettists alike, Oper’Actuel is a fantastic opportunity to present their opera projects in a professional and public framework,” explains Marie-Annick Béliveau who is supervising Oper’Actuel for the first time in this 6thedition.

“They can thus assess the relevance of their work, its composition and its words, as well as audience reaction. The audience’s emotion sends back a message, sometimes confronting the creator with questions: is it the right artistic approach? What can be, needs to be changed, improved, adjusted? Everyone will say that the rehearsal means nothing until you get the audience’s reaction…”


“I realize that some composers are a little hesitant about adapting their creations to the technical conditions, some in terms of instruments, others in terms of voice,” continues Marie-Annick. “We are talking about works in the making. Even though these are excerpts, drafts, tests, for everyone, Oper’Actuel is a wonderful testing ground provided by Chants Libres to get the audience’s response, to know what passage works best or not…”

This experience is valuable both for the composers and the young singers. When setting up for Oper’Actuel, the creative indications can then be negotiated between the composer and the performer. “In addition to the professional context, they have the immense satisfaction of having a composer that is composing for them and for their whole person based on their assets, their path and/or their personality, etc.,” says Marie-Annick Béliveau.


Just like an actor to a director, the singer proposes something to the composer. “For the creators, composer and librettist, the performer is a translator,” asserts this talented mezzo-soprano. “This requires a form of loyalty to the composer’s work. This approach championed by Oper’Actuel leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but also a lot of room for experience. We go back to basics: an authentic story, a score, authentic words and a composer,” she summarizes. “A score is like a recipe: every chef has their experiments and their secrets, and the public tastes the final product…,” Marie-Annick says with a smile.

“For the performers as well, it is a fundamental experience in their education and career alike,” insists the singer.  “We work on the classical repertoire, and trying their voice, using it on more “experimental” scores in some way helps expand limits from a technical viewpoint, but also an interpretative viewpoint. It’s enriching.”


“As part of an international call for proposals launched in May 2018, we received between 25 and 30 lyrical works projects, some only partially written,” states Marie-Annick Béliveau. “With strong artistic quality, diversity in the forms of opera selected is important: grand opera, musical theatre, styles, experimental music, etc., and of course the interdisciplinary aspect of the work were determining factors.”  Among the six “composer/librettist” tandems selected, the audience will hear a wide variety of stories:

  • La Nuit est ma femme by Mathilde Côté (Quebec), with libretto by Rose Nagar-Tremblay, inspired by Jack Kerouac’s texts in two languages, will feature chamber music across a more personal musical score.
  • Appena prima, Appena doppo by Analía Llugdar (Argentina), with libretto by Ana Candida, will feature some drafts of a work, the writing of which is in full swing, in an expressionist style of sprechgesang (spoken song) with three voices and six instruments.
  • Cantique des oiseaux by Farangis Nurulla-Khoja (Tajikistan), with libretto by Leili Anvar, presented by the Ensemble de musique contemporaine de l’Université de Montréal in the design of the great frescos of European musical theatre.
  • SLEEP by Anthony R. Green (USA), with libretto by Clio Em, a current, experimental musical work in which two women and a piano respond to one another and sometimes interpret one another; two voices in mirror, transformed by micro-tonality.
  • American Atheist by Stefan Weisman (USA), with precisely written, theatrical libretto by David Côté, a typical excerpt of American writing with a political historical subject around a coherent and formal musical score.

And then, of course, a first excerpt from Chants Libres’ next major production, L’Orangeraie, a composition by Zad Moultaka, with libretto by Larry Tremblay inspired by his novel of the same name, will round out this program of discoveries.

OPER’ACTUEL Works in Progress 2019
Saturday, March 16 (8 pm) and Sunday, March 17 (4 pm)

Amphitheatre — Le Gesù, 1200 de Bleury Street, Montréal
Info: 514-861-4378|


Credit photo : Marie-Annick Béliveau by Michelle Boudreau