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9 singers and 10 musicians

Commission: Chants libres, with support from the CCA

Premiere: November 22, 2001, Manuscrit trouvé à Saragosse, Salle Pierre-Mercure — Centre Pierre-Péladeau, Montréal (Québec)

I have always been fascinated with the idea of creating musical versions of narrative texts. What drew me to the manuscript was above all the complex nature of its structure and diversity of styles. The stories refer back and forth to each other, and the tone continually evolves, from the fantastic novel to the libertine tale, the philosophical fable, and the picturesque novel.

When I asked Alexis Nouss in 1994 to write a libretto based on this work, we were both participants at a symposium for librettists and composers organized by the Banff Centre.

In this work, I aimed to make the text comprehensible, without any compromise. For that reason, passages in which a character recites a story are set in declamatory styles, while more lyrical sections are reserved for dialogues in which a single singer plays various characters of the opera. In order to reinforce the characterization of individual dramatic personae, I have assigned specific musical patterns to each. This technique derives in a general sense from several types of Asian music.

A mixture of styles permeates the music, reflecting the broad array of characters and genres: authentic and invented traditional Spanish music stands alongside pastiches of eighteenth-century works, as well as music drawn from Ashkenazy and Sephardic Jewish, North African, Islamic, and Greek cultures, among others.

José Evangelista

  • Score available at CMC, Région du Québec.
  • Recording: available at SMCQ’s office