OCM: Quebec Premiere of “As One”

The Orchestre Classique de Montréal is proud to welcome baritone Phillip Addis to the cast of the opera As One. He replaces Dominique Côté who was initially scheduled to perform the role of Hannah Before.

Montreal Rampage spoke to Sarah Bissonnette, mezzo-soprano, in the role of Hannah After, as well as Taras Kulish, executive director of the Orchestre Classique de Montréal.

Sarah Bissonnette

The first one is an obvious question: how have you as an artist been dealing with the changed world and your ability to practise your art during these changed times? 

Sarah Bissonnette: As an artist, I have taken time to reflect about my vision and about my place in this changed industry. I have opened my horizons to musical styles that were new to me and to new ways of performing.

More generally, I have tried to play my part in the pandemic as much as possible. Having lost a lot of music gigs in the Spring while being young and healthy, I have made the decision to work at a CHSLD from late March to late May and then transitioned to work for a reusable mask company once the situation was settled at the CHSLD. I am so glad to get back to performing!

How do you feel a performance is impacted for you as an artist, if all your audience are not in person and instead enjoying the performance online?

SB: I’m happy that the current situation is making the opera world take a huge step forward in using technology. It requires a lot of adaptation from everyone, but I think this is a great way to democratize opera, especially for audiences living outside the big cities.

Of course, no streaming device will ever replace attending a live performance. We are all realizing how lucky we are to start performing live again.

How relevant do you think a story like ‘As One’ is in this world that we are inhabiting? 

SB: So relevant! I’m learning so much through Hannah’s words. I’m so lucky to have grown up in a very accepting environment where I could explore and find out who I am. Hannah is facing many challenges which are so well depicted in Kimberley Reed and Mark Campbell’s words. This is the perfect piece to present at the Semaine de sensibilisation aux réalités trans.

What part does music play in dealing with and adapting to the new realities of social distancing, changed manners of social interaction and also how we enjoy the arts? 

SB: I have been singing at a number of CHSLD in the last weeks and I can tell you that music really brings joy, for us and for the residents! Many people hadn’t heard live music for months and they shared how touched they were that we performed for them. 

How was it preparing for the show? Have the struggles been easy to adapt to, with health protocols in place? 

SB: Our rehearsal period has been shortened because of the many changes in the production and it’s going to be a challenge to get this show on its feet in a shorter amount of time. It definitely puts more responsibility on every performer’s shoulders.

Have you had any specific members of the Trans community connected to the project? Do you think such links are relevant in the development of the show? 

Taras Kulish: The opera As One is loosely based on the life of trans film director and producer, Kimberly Reed. She co-wrote the libretto to this opera so the authenticity of the work is absolutely genuine. As Executive Director and a member of the LGBT community, the question of representation is very important to me. We have hired Tranna Wintour, a transgender comedian, singer, and writer to be a spokesperson of the project. She will also be animating the forum following the performances. Such links to the community are very important when presenting works that have socially sensitive subjects. I am thrilled to say that this project also includes several collaborations with the LGBT community including GRIS Montréal, the Montreal LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and Fondation Emergence. 

As One will be available online only. The first online broadcast will be on November 20, following which it will be available until December 5.