The Orchestre classique de Montréal (OCM) has announced a new collaboration with Haitian-Canadian composer David Bontemps, with the creation of a new chamber opera, La Flambeau. The world premiere will take place in February 2023 during Black History Month and will be premiered in Montreal and Hamilton, as part of the BrottOpera under the direction of Boris Brott.
Composed at the onset of the pandemic, this is David Bontemps’ first opera. The music combines a string orchestra with percussion and vocals to present a story rooted in powerful, topical themes: women’s rights, respect of values, the importance of denouncing human objectification and manipulation, and the need for social justice and compassion.
Scored for four singers and string orchestra with maracas, La Flambeau is based on the play of the same name by Haitian poet and playwright Faubert Bolivar. Bolivar’s play won the Paulette Poujol‑Oriol and Georges Corvington Special Prize from Éditions Henri Deschamps in 2013.
The cast will feature Cameroonian-born soprano Suzanne Taffot, Canadian mezzo-soprano Catherine Daniel, Jamaican-Canadian tenor Paul Williamson, and Canadian bass Korin Thomas‑Smith. The director will be Mariah Inger, a Montréal actress whose career spans three decades.
“I’m very pleased, first of all, to have had the chance to set my friend Faubert’s powerful play to music,” says David Bontemps. “It’s a work that invites audiences to re-examine their convictions. I’m also thrilled that my opera is being premiered in my adopted city by such a renowned orchestra,” he says.
David Bontemps, who is both a pianist and composer, was born in Port-au-Prince, a city where Western music mixes freely with urban and traditional Haitian idioms. In 2002, he moved to Montréal and was dubbed part of “the next generation of Haitian composers” by musicologist Claude Dauphin, who included Bontemps among the Haitian classical composers of the new era in his 2014 book, “Histoire du style musical d’Haïti.”
Le Devoir journalist Yves Bernard has described Bontemps as “a true vanguard for Creole music. He breaks down walls, easily navigating between folk tunes, voodoo songs, jazz, Western classical, and Haitian art music.” Bontemps has received grants from the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts and has written and recorded several albums.