Song Cycle for Countertenor and Orchestra / Cycle de cinq mélodies pour contre-ténor et orchestre
Poems by Bertrand Laverdure.
Premiere: 23 June 2015, Salle Bourgie, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal (Québec, Canada). Daniel Cabena, countertenor with the Orchestre de la Francophonie (conducted by Jean-Philippe Tremblay).
For this song cycle for countertenor and orchestra, I set to music five original poems written for the project by Quebec author Bertrand Laverdure. In his words, these poems “speak to both the existential pain wrought by death (including the vanishing of humanity) and the obsessive dissatisfaction of artists who cannot content themselves with living and who constantly busy themselves with leaving tangible traces of their passage on earth.”
Musically, I found my point of departure in the union between strength and fragility, characteristic traits of the countertenor voice. This union is equally present in the joining of this type of voice with a full orchestra, a combination that is still relatively rare. In order to highlight the rich diversity of colours, I wanted to highlight similarities and contrasts in texture and timbre by linking the voice with different instrumental subsets of the orchestra. To this end, and in consultation with the author, I closely examined the texts in order to render musically both the written words and that which can be read “between the lines”, with all the ambiguities, shading and nuance that this can imply. As such, the sudden changes in dynamics play a double role: they mirror the leaps in emotional tone and register expressed across the five poems of the cycle and allow the voice to take its place at the heart of this work, while also creating space for the full force of the orchestra to be heard. Thus, in my desire to bring together all these contrasts, I felt a connection to the nuanced themes of the poetry, with this search for vital balance between existential pain and the pleasure of artistic creation.
*Video: Sound: Philippe Bouvrette; Image: Rico Michel
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Daniel will be singing in a double-bill concert in Montreal on March 16, 2016 at 19:00 Le Gesù: 1200 de Bleury, Montréal. Original music by composer Francis Perron. Here is the French description:
CHANTS DÉROBÉS présente un éditeur qui va trahir son auteur favori en révélant publiquement certains passages inédits de son plus récent livre. Un monologue théâtral et un récital de chants se partagent le récit de cette étrange affaire. – Texte et livret Augustin Rioux, musique originale et piano Francis Perron, contre-ténor Daniel Cabena, jeu Jean Marchand
Here’s an interview with Daniel about his upcoming work with Vancouver’s Turning Point Ensemble ‘air india [redacted]. Click here to view full interview + here’s a snippet:
“I think it is significant that the principal narrative voice has been written for a countertenor. Jürgen Simpson, the composer, could certainly speak more fully to that point; but I’ll take the liberty of making at least a couple of observations. For one, I think the lines that I sing in an objective mode, the ones that speak directly to the audience, commenting on the action, have a real authority. And it strikes me as uniquely affecting to have such morally important moments curated in the more ambiguous, less traditionally authoritative tone of a countertenor. Maybe this softens the edges of the thing; or maybe it sharpens them: I’m not sure. But it’s strong and touching.”
Formal performances will take place November 6, 7, 8, 10 & 11, 2015!
Daniel was interviewed in advance of his final recital of his ‘Sanctuary in Song’ tour. CLICK HERE to read the full interview.
Here’s one of the Qs:
MC: How do you find performing a recital with an accompanist, such as Stephen Runge, in comparison to an opera role?
DC: The process of performing a recital with a single accompanist is, I’m sure, quite different from that associated with an opera role. But what strikes me most just now is the similarities between the two. By that I mean especially that the feeling of collaboration can be equally strong in both instances and that there’s a great seeking after character and narrative clarity in both cases. I do, however, love the intimacy of recital. I love being so close to my accompanist, such that one can very spryly, instantaneously pick up the physical and musical hints left by the other. I also love the proximity of the audience and being able to see them and receive their reactions. But I also love a part of the recital work that happens long before singer or pianist gets near the stage, and that’s the work of creating a program. I imagine it to be akin to the work of a curator; in any case it’s certainly an opportunity to interpret or maybe just come to terms with the music and texts that have touched me, made me who I am. I find that to be an immensely enriching process, and it’s one that I cherish.
Daniel Cabena was featured in both the Waterloo Record and the Guelph Mercury in a lovely piece by Valerie Hill. The piece highlights two upcoming engagements Daniel has. Daniel sings with the Spiritus Ensemble (Nov 30 4pm tickets & info here) and the Nota Bene Baroque Players (Dec 13 & 14 tickets & info here).