Riopelle in symphonic mode | The Press

What do Jean Paul Riopelle, Serge Fiori and the Orchester symphonique de Montréal (OSM) have in common? At first glance, not much. However, these three entities are now brought together in the creation of a crazy project in homage to the great Quebec painter.

Posted at 6:15 a.m.

Symphonic Riopelle is a musical fresco which is one of the many events planned for the 100thand birthday of an artist who seems to be struck by the grace of eternity. This work will have its world premiere in February 2023 as part of Montréal en lumière.

We owe this idea to producer Nicolas Lemieux, who had the flair to combine the talent of composer and conductor Blair Thomson with that of Serge Fiori. “I first went to Blair Thomson, who, in my opinion, had the necessary sensitivity for this project. He is a being of rare intelligence, of great culture. Remember that the latter dazzled Montreal audiences in the spring of 2014 by conducting the OSM during the concert Twelve rapailled men by Gaston Miron and Gilles Belanger.


Serge Fiori listens to the Orchester symphonique de Montréal during the recording of the disc Stories Without Words – Symphonic Harmonium in 2020. This time, the OSM will perform pieces arranged by composer and conductor Blair Thompson, including pieces from Fiori’s repertoire that are not part of his Harmonium period.

Nicolas Lemieux then contacted Serge Fiori, with whom he worked on the project symphonic harmonium with the OSM in 2020. “I wanted him to put soul into this work. He thought about it because Serge is not the type to jump into a project without being convinced that he has a role to play. He finally accepted because he wants to give a present to Riopelle, whom he adores. »

At the heart of this work are the music of seven songs by Serge Fiori which are not part of his period with Harmonium. These themes were arranged by Thomson and blended into a work that should ultimately last approximately 75 minutes. “The creative work is very advanced,” says Nicolas Lemieux, who had to do a major immersion in Riopelle’s life and work. “His life is an incredible playground. »

Symphonic Riopelle will consist of five parts. “We established a curve based on the major axes of Riopelle’s life,” Lemieux tells us.

We realize that what has marked his life and his career is freedom. It guided us to the bird, to the wild goose. So the work will offer a journey made up of take-off, an acceleration movement, a period of turbulence, a gliding flight where he returns home, then finally landing, which shows the tired man approaching the end.

Nicolas Lemieux, producer

Produced by GSI Musique and Oziko, in partnership with the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation, Symphonic Riopelle will bring together musicians from the OSM and the Petits Chanteurs de Laval, which will be conducted by Adam Johnson. The stage outfits for the musicians and the conductor will be created by designer Marie Saint Pierre, whose father, Champlain Charest, was a great friend of Riopelle.

Nicolas Lemieux is in the process of setting up a “great Canadian tour” in order to offer this work and this experience to a greater number of spectators. The work would be performed each time by a local orchestra.

We obviously cannot offer a musical work inspired by a painter like Riopelle without including a visual aspect. Projection games will accompany the musical interpretation. And for that, we called on Gabriel Poirier-Galarneau to carry out the visual design and ensure the staging.

As for Nicolas Lemieux, he signs the artistic direction of this ambitious project. This producer is not at his first adventure in the orchestral world. It was he who notably produced the great symphonic concert of the 375and Montreal’s anniversary, in the summer of 2017, bringing together 400 musicians from the OSM, the Orchester métropolitain and the McGill Symphony Orchestra.

A series with the OSM

As Nicolas Lemieux likes to think big, he explained to me that this project will have seven parts. The concert in February 2023 and the recording which will be released next November constitute the first two stages. “I brought together several creative businesses in Montreal,” says Nicolas Lemieux. We are going to adapt this work and bring extraordinary experiences to the public. My goal is to bring this work to the world. I want us to discover Riopelle and then want to go and see his paintings. »

Symphonic Riopelle inaugurates a large series of original creations called Paintings and produced in collaboration with the Orchester symphonique de Montréal.

Over the next few years, the public will discover other musical works created in tribute to other visual artists from Quebec. An artistic committee has been formed to determine the next creators to whom we will pay tribute.

“After 25 years in this business, I’ve come to this,” says Nicolas Lemieux. I wanted to create a signature series with the OSM that would be neither in the classical sector nor in the pop sector. Our goal is to create a work every two years for the next ten years. »

An extraordinary tribute

Symphonic Riopelle is one of the events that will constitute a grand tribute to the painter who died on March 12, 2002. Never has a Quebec artist been so celebrated.


Jean Paul Riopelle, photographed in 1985

In addition to the retrospective at the National Gallery of Canada and the exhibition at the Musée d’art de Joliette, we will see the launch of construction work on Espace Riopelle, which will be erected near the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec . Its opening is scheduled for 2025.

We recently discovered the details of the theatrical work that Robert Lepage will create at Duceppe, in April 2023. For their part, Les 7 Doigts will present a show, in the summer of 2023, which will also draw its inspiration from the world of Riopelle.

As for Yseult Riopelle, the painter and sculptor’s eldest daughter, she is continuing the colossal task she took on in the mid-1980s, that of compiling the catalog raisonné of her prolific father’s works. To date, five volumes, covering all the works produced by the artist between 1940 and 1970 (7000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, ceramics, collages and others) and a sixth bringing together the prints, have been launched. She is currently working on the next volume of this catalogue.

Symphonic RiopelleFebruary 16, 17 and 18, 2023, at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts, tickets on sale from April 9, at 10 a.m.

Symphonic Riopelle

Symphonic Riopelle

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