By STEVEN HOWELL
---- — MONTREAL — From classics to blockbusters to contemporary productions, the Opera de Montreal celebrates its 33rd season beginning this weekend.
This year’s season, which opens Saturday with “La Traviata,” also includes “The Flying Dutchman,” Die Fledermaus,” “Dead Man Walking” and “Manon.”
“We wanted to give the opera lovers of the area a menu that was extremely varied,” said Artistic Director Michel Beaulac. “So there are some legends and some things more true to life, but all have elements that will appeal to just about everybody.”
Beaulac says the season opener classic “La Traviata” by Giuseppe Verdi “talks about the everyday life of its times.
“It’s like reality TV in the mid 19th century,” Beaulac said.
“La Traviata” tells the story of Violetta, a courtesan in love with Alfredo, a young man who comes from a very good family.
“It’s the story of these women who would live off their suitors,” Beaulac said. “Everyone is in love with Violetta. Everyone wants to date her. But she’s tired of the situation.”
Violetta soon falls in love with Alfredo, but his family disapproves.
“It’s a very authentic, true-to-life story,” Beaulac said. “And it was very revolutionary at the time Verdi wrote it because it underlined that style of life.”
Beaulac adds that “La Traviata” is one of Verdi’s most poignant and popular operas.
“And popular operas are not popular for nothing,” Beaulac said. “People recognize that. When the music really fits with the character and the emotion and drives into your soul and mind and heart, then it’s a hit. This story is so universal, so timeless.”
“La Traviata” is performed Saturday and again Sept. 18, 20 and 22.
‘THE FLYING DUTCHMAN’
Next is “The Flying Dutchman,” which is just in time for German composer Richard Wagner’s bicentennial of his birth — he was born in 1813.
“‘The Flying Dutchman’ offers a totally different approach,” Beaulac said. “It’s a legend that explores the solitude of the human soul.”
The story follows the captain of a phantom ship who travels the seas for seven years.
“He must do this before he can touch land once again and find love to redeem his own sins,” Beaulac said. “And it’s that redemption that Wagner has in all of his operas. It’s a very powerful, significant and psychological subject. We’re all looking for a little redemption and salvation in our lives.”
“The Flying Dutchman” is performed Nov. 10, 13, 15 and 17.
Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” takes the stage in the New Year.
“But we’ve adapted it as a comedy, which is set in Montreal in the 1930s,” Beaulac said. “It’s a full Canadian cast, and we’ll mix the two languages as much as Montreal is French and English.”
“Die Fledermaus,” which translates to “The Bat” in English, follows Eisenstein, a man sentenced to jail who is able to postpone his punishment to attend a party where he meets a Hungarian countess, who is really his wife in disguise.
“Die Fledermaus” is presented Jan. 26, 29 and 31 and Feb.2.
‘DEAD MAN WALKING’
Following is a much newer contemporary operatic take with “Dead Man Walking,” which is based on the 1995 film starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon.
“Dead Man Walking” tells the real-life story of Sister Helen Prejean, who befriends a prisoner who is sentenced to death.
“This deals with very powerful strong themes,” Beaulac said, who adds that the timing coincides with the recent 50th anniversary of Amnesty International, the human-rights organization founded in 1961.
“The death penalty is still a big question in a lot of minds,” Beaulac said. “Even in a world full of violence, many people question the death penalty. It’s a very strong statement on pardon and not adding death to death.”
“Dead Man Walking” is performed March 9, 12, 14 and 16.
Closing the season is Opera de Montreal’s own production of “Manon” on May 18, 21, 23 and 25.
“All in all, it will be a great season,” Beaulac said.
Place des Arts at 175 St. Catherine St. W. (Metro station Place des Arts). Curtain call is usually 7:30 p.m. Individual tickets range from about $50 to $130. Call the Place des Arts box office at (866) 842-2112. Also visit www.pda.qc.ca or www.operademontreal.com.