When it comes to demanding attention (and getting it!) “Another Brick in the Wall” stands out in L’Opéra de Montréal’s oeuvre. Even before the onstage action, the foyer of Place des Arts was abuzz with patrons hoping to catch a glimpse of Pink Floyd alum, and author of the legendary “The Wall”, Mr. Roger Waters. Montreal’s 375th was also a hot topic on Saturday night, with the presence of such political figures as Mélanie Joly, Denis Coderre and France Chrétien Desmarais there to bear witness to the birth of an original opera in our city.
When the curtain rises for the opening act, no time is wasted in setting the scene for what lays ahead. A pulsating multifaceted multimedia experience immediately fills the senses. The story begins at a raucous rock show which mimics the 1977 Pink Floyd concert that took place in Montreal and was the catalyst for the creation of “The Wall.” We meet Pink (Etienne Dupuis, baritone), a disillusioned, disgruntled, and isolated rockstar as he spirals towards self-destruction. Rushed to hospital in a dissociative state, Pink is thrust through time and space, forced to relive his life in an attempt to truly see how it all went wrong. If that sounds like one hell of a trip, well, it is! So, hold on to your seat as you try to focus in on the sights and sounds of the two-hour journey that Pierre Dufour (General and Production Director), Dominic Champagne (Stage Director) and Julien Bilodeau (Composer) have designed for you.
Holding true to the story arc and lyrics of the iconic album must have been quite a challenge for this collaborative team, in no small part due to the adaptation of the classic rock sound to its classical counterpart. Though ‘70s rock and opera have more in common than one may initially think. Perhaps one could define it as a shared flare for indulgence and melodrama? However, these components do have their trappings. For example, some laughs come with the production and some at the expense of. The projections truly enhance the story-telling but also become quite distracting to the incredible strong performances on stage. Similarly, the extremely effective slow-motion maneuvering employed by the choristers and supernumeraries in the beginning, seems to morph into more of a gimmick by the end.
Boasting 8 soloists, 46 choristers, 70 musicians, 8 projectors, and 1 screen measuring 21×21 ft, this show is almost more an experience than a performance. Regardless of the minutiae of its flaws, nothing can take away from the commanding presence of its cast. With that I would like to make special mention of the two actors who alternately play Pink as a child (Amadeo Bélanger and Burbidge Izquierdo), though they do not sing they deserve more credit than given for the outstanding precision with which the role is played. The task of reinventing this seminal work must have been daunting but the energy brought to this endeavor rightfully brought audiences to their feet. Though I ultimately qualify it as the cilantro of L’OdM’s 2016-2017 season (of particular taste and not suited to everyone), “Another Brick in the Wall” is sure to make its mark as an original and invigorating contribution to the global operatic catalogue.
Photos by Yves Renaud