Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Abominable Showman, January 19, 2013

The Prince of Tenors
CharPo sits down with Marc Hervieux for a no-holds-barred interview just days after the famed Quebec tenor walked out on rehearsals for Die Fledermaus at L’Opéra de Montréal to protest the company’s publicity campaign for Die Fledermaus, which opens on January 26
By Richard Burnett

Famed Quebec lyric tenor Marc Hervieux was starring as Rodolfo in Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera La Boheme with another well-known Quebec opera star, Marie-Josée Lord, who was playing the part of Mimi, when Lord fell ill during her performance at L’Opéra de Montréal back in January 2004.
“She wasn’t performing like the other nights, so I began to worry that something might be wrong,” Hervieux recalls. “So I whispered in her ear, ‘Are you alright?’ and Marie-Josée replied, ‘I think I’m going to be sick.’”
There was panic on the set as – with Mimi on the brink of death in Act IV – Hervieux carried Lord offstage, as both opera stars remained fully in character. Hervieux then returned onstage carrying Lord’s understudy in his arms.
“I placed her in the bed and of course, the audience then realized that something was up, because Marie-Josée is black and the understudy was white. 
“But like they say,” Hervieux adds, “The show must go on.”
Then last week, when Hervieux boycotted rehearsals of L’OdeM’s restaging of Johann Strauss II’s three-act Viennese operetta Die Fledermaus, which premieres at Montreal’s Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on January 26 – Hervieux called it a “vocal-cord strike” – it was a healthy Marie-Josée Lord who had Hervieux’s back. 
Hervieux was upset that Die Fledermaus publicity materials featured a model instead of the Montreal cast. In fact, L’OdeM’s advertising campaign for this 2012-2013 season features models instead of performers.
“What I know is that at L’Opéra de Montréal soloists have fought for many years to have their faces used to promote [their operas],” Lord told Le Journal de Montreal this week. “The only time my photo was used was on a poster for Starmania Opéra [in 2009].”
L’Opéra de Montréal did an about-face, issuing a French statement on January 9 that said, “Since 2006, our advertising strategy has had two objectives: to establish a brand and to build the audience of tomorrow… [but] for the good of the company, our public and our artists, the administration will review its promotional strategy not only for Die Fledermaus, but also for the season's two subsequent productions, Dead Man Walking and Manon.”
When I asked Hervieux about it this week, he replied, “We have many great Quebec opera singers doing well around the world, but who in Quebec knows about them, other than the usual two or three? I’m proud of them all, and I want them all to get their due. I understand how advertising and branding work, but if L’Opéra de Montréal doesn’t feature the faces of Quebecois performers in their publicity material, how will audiences here ever learn? 
“I’m not saying my face has to be plastered on every poster,” Hervieux adds, “but I certainly don’t think I should be replaced by a model.”
It’s also true that Hervieux – who has performed on stages around the world, from the La Scala in Milan to the Kirov Opera, not to mention was a principal artist with the Metropolitan Opera of  New York from 2006-2010knows that his longstanding relationship with L’Opéra de Montréal is special and not one to be trifled with.
“I want to thank L’Opéra de Montréal for reacting so quickly and changing this campaign,” he says.
For Die Fledermaus, Hervieux heads a cast made up entirely of Canadians. While this masterpiece by Johann Strauss II, the undisputed master of Viennese operetta, originally  premiered in Vienna in April 1874, this Opera Australia  production has been transposed to 1930s Montreal – with its Westmount mansions and Sin-City Montreal nightclubs – by stage director Oriol Tomas.
While opera remains his passion – Hervieux came to it quite late, at the age of 23 (“I just woke up one day and decided to go for it, and put all my eggs in one basket”) – he also enjoys singing pop music. The ADISQ Award-winning singer’s 2009 pop album Après nous has sold more than 70,000 copies in Quebec alone. 
But whatever you do, don’t call Hervieux a pop artist.
“I’m [just] a singer,” says Hervieux, who idolized the Irish rock band U2 as a teenager. “I’m just lucky that I can sing both the pop and classical repertoires. I cannot say that I see myself as one or the other.”
And if he can sing without a microphone, he prefers it.
As for the new wave of Quebec opera singers making their mark on stages around the world, what does Hervieux think of their growing success? Does their vocal prowess have something to do with the diction in Quebec? Or is there something in the water?
“I don’t know what’s in the water!” Hervieux laughs, then turns serious for another moment. “But Quebec singers are increasingly respected on opera stages around the world and it makes me very proud. What’s important to me is that we talk about opera. For me it is a passion. I sing because I love to sing.”
L'Opéra de Montréal’s production of Die Fledermaus runs at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier at Montreal’s Place des Arts, January 26-29-31 and February 2, at 7:30 pm nightly.


  1. This article states that Hervieux was a leading artist with the Metropolitan Opera for several years. Did he ever sing a single performance with that company? Their database has no listing for him.

  2. It's in his bio (check it out on his website here

    And it's also referenced in this press release


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