You're probably thinking, "A 1.5 hour bus and metro trip? No thanks!" To be honest, I was pretty much thinking the same thing. There were 3 other activities in Montreal that same Friday night (such as Opera Montreal Cafe at Les Jardineries) that were much easier to get to. But I stuck to my initial plan and went ahead, venturing outside the city limits... and I'm actually really happy I did! I eventually found myself in a gorgeous little town where life seems to move just a little slower than in the city. Overall, refreshing!
Presented by the Consul General of Lebanon, this concert consisted of the most popular opera arias and ensembles of the repertoire, performed by singers of Lebanese descent. Gives it that extra authenticity feel, know what I mean? Now, I'm looking at the program filled with Figaro, Carmen, and Madama Butterfly, and although each interpretation is different, the thought of hearing the same typical opera pieces again didn't excite me. Until I glanced at my new copine Monique; she was all smiles, nodding along, glancing towards me and wording the parts she knew. Her energy was contagious and I suddenly appreciated the evening for what it really was. An opportunity for those unable or unwilling to travel to the urban areas to enjoy an evening of live classical singing. At intermission, I asked Monique if she ever goes to the city to see the opera and she replied that she hadn't gone to Place des Arts since 1972. So truly, the Festival d'Opera de Saint-Eustache is the only opportunity for some to enjoy live opera performances, and in this specific case, what I consider typical overheard pieces are fresh new or seldom heard works for many attending the event!
Furthermore, the Festival d'Opera de Saint-Eustache, under the direction of its founder Leila Chalfoun, was able to nail two great singers, whom you'll typically only see on notorious stages in North America and around the world. Julie Nesrallah, mezzo soprano and also host of Tempo on CBC Radio2, and Fady Jeanbart, the baritone who flew directly from Lebanon for that performance, were gems to listen to and watch. Additionally, the intimacy of the concert and the reception afterwards gave the attendees the opportunity to meet and chat with them (if you're classical music student, you might want to start attending this kind of performance, ASAP).
To sum up, unlike I previously assumed, the Festival d'Opera de Saint-Eustache is not centered around attracting Montrealers to the suburb for a weekend, but rather the opposite; offering a variety of operatic concerts to Laval and the North Shore inhabitants. Not to say that Montrealers are not welcome! However, I have a feeling that in order to compete with the other numerous activities more easily accessible, the festival administration will have to find a way to counter the travelling cost by upping their offering in some original and appealling way. For instance, presenting a different fully staged operatic production every year, perhaps in partnership with a Montreal-based independent opera company, would be an interesting and effective way to attract more people, much like the Brott Music Festival, which will present Le Nozze di Figaro, an all-time crowd pleaser on July 14th in Hamilton. Since these productions are rare during the summer, they are sure to attract of considerable amount of opera fans!