By STEVEN HOWELL Press-Republican
---- — MONTREAL — The curtain rises once again for the Opera de Montreal, this year celebrating its 34th season.
Opening the season is “Lakme” by composer Leo Delibes.
“The new season is very exciting,” said Opera de Montreal artistic director Michel Beaulac. “We’re opening with ‘Lakme.’ And we planned it that way.”
Beaulac said the production enjoys a special 50th anniversary milestone; it was the first concert presented at Place des Arts when the facility opened in 1963.
“Lakme” tells the operatic tale of a British soldier in Ceylon during colonial times who meets and falls in love with Lakme, the daughter of a high Hindu priest. But the clash of colonial cultures suggests that this love match may not last.
“It’s very traditional in that is has an exotic, Oriental flavor, which was very fashionable in French music during the later-19th century,” Beaulac said. “And the story is just touching and romantic.”
Beaulac said he promises “a very big celebration for the opening night.”
Big as in Bollywood big.
“The set and design is very Bollywood — very bright, very luminescent,” Beaulac said. “I think the audience will be seduced.”
“Lakme” is presented Sept. 21, 24, 26 and 28.
Coming in November is “Falstaff” by Giuseppe Verdi.
“This will celebrate Verdi’s bicentennial,” Beaulac said. Verdi was born in 1813.
Paolo Gavanelli enjoys the plum title role of the “old, potbellied Sir John Falstaff,” a ladies’ man who sends out one too many identical love letters — to his complete and utter humiliation.
“Paolo is perhaps one of the four or five greatest Falstaffs of the last century,” Beaulac said.
“Falstaff” is presented Nov. 9, 12, 14 and 16.
18TH LE GALA
Verdi sticks around for Opera de Montreal’s annual fundraising gala, which takes its turn in December.
“It will be dedicated solely to Verdi’s music,” Beaulac said.
Beaulac invited 12 artists from all around the world to join in on the festivities.
“It will be two hours of Verdi music with excerpts that are rarely presented in Montreal.”
The 18th Le Gala takes place Dec. 1.
‘PORGY AND BESS’
Ringing in the New Year is “Porgy and Bess” by George Gershwin.
“It’s a classic but never done here,” Beaulac said.
Set in a small South Carolina fishing town, Gershwin’s masterpiece tells of beautiful Bess, who is trying to escape her past relationship with a threatening former lover, and new love Porgy’s attempts to save her.
“We’re presenting it with an all-black cast and chorus as commanded by Gershwin, himself,” Beaulac said.
The chorus includes Montreal’s renowned Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir.
“This one is full of talent,” Beaulac said. “I’m really looking forward it.”
“Porgy and Bess” is presented Jan. 25, 28, 30; and Feb. 1.
‘HANSEL AND GRETEL’
Atelier Lyrique, Opera de Montreal’s joint venture that features up-and-coming opera students, takes its turn with the classic production of “Hansel and Gretel” in March of 2014.
The production about the adventures of two young children who get lost in the forest combines the cast and crew from Orchestre Metropolitain, the National Theatre School of Canada and École Nationale de Cirque (The National Circus School).
“Hansel and Gretel” is presented March 22, 25, 27 and 29.
Rounding out the season is “Turandot” by Giacomo Puccini.
“This is a beautiful production with an incredible cast,” Beaulac said. The production comes courtesy of Opera Australia.
“Turandot” is the story of Prince Calaf, who is in love with mean girl Princess Turandot. Before he can marry her, though, he must solve three riddles, according to the press release. One wrong answer means his decapitation. Talk about pressure!
“Turandot” is presented May 17, 20, 22 and 24.
Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.IF YOU GO WHERE: Place des Arts at 175 St. Catherine St. W. (Metro station Place des Arts) in Montreal. WHEN: The curtain call is usually 7:30 p.m. ADMISSION: Adult tickets range from about $52 to $142. Discounts are available for students and those ages 18 to 30. CONTACT: Call the Place des Arts box office at (866) 842-2112, or visit www.pda.qc.ca or www.operademontreal.com.