Performances:

April 3, 2016
The Coronet Theatre, London
London Sinfonietta with Loré Lixenberg
March 7, 2014
Salle d’Youville, Palais Montcalm, Québec
Ensemble Lunatik with Élizabeth Veilleux
December, 2012
Monday Evening Concerts, Los Angeles
MEC Ensemble with Alice Teyssier
November 12, 2012
Lion d’Or, Montreal
Les salons de l’Ombre Jaune with Marie-Annick Béliveau
May 10, 2012
Roy O. Disney Music Hall, Valencia, California
Andrea Young and ensemble
May 14, 2010
Chapelle historique du Bon Pasteur, Montreal (premiere)
Ensemble Kore with Marie-Annick Béliveau

Scores:

Bel Canto – ensemble A: alto flute, clarinet, guitar, mezzo-soprano
Bel Canto – ensemble B: violin, viola, cello

Notes:

Commissioned by Ensemble Kore with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Recipient of the 2011 Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, Canada’s highest honour for composition.

 

The piece is above all a portrait Maria Callas. It’s based on the opening statement (the opening sighs) of Puccini’s Vissi d’arte – Maria Callas’ live version of it, with all the full generosity of her vibrato, swoops and portamenti (all the things outside of notation). At the beginning, it’s as if we hear her young voice, and towards the end, the voice of her later years.

The path of the piece through time is not only about the ageing of an extraordinary woman, but also about the listener. Time slows down to allow for an engagement with detail, for a closeness or submersion in the sound, and possibly for clarity or meditative stillness.

Two simultaneous ensembles perform here without coordinating with each other. This makes for layers of melody, creating a sonic depth of field – echoing perhaps the depth of the Greek landscape in which I felt the warm revelation that originally inspired this piece. Moreover, to separate the ensemble into two smaller groups, without conductor, enables an intense chamber-listening between the players. This intimacy allows them to carry out with great musicality all of the non-notatable things I mentioned earlier – the swoops and vibrato, and all the unnamable subtleties of vocality.