Montreal's new concert hall, La Maison Symphonique, opens its doors to the public Wednesday, an event music lovers have been awaiting for more than two decades.
Previous provincial governments, including the Parti Québécois, have promised to build a new concert hall, but those plans never came to fruition. So after decades of failed attempts, the city's new symphony hall will have its inaugural concert Wednesday night.
Kent Nagano, the musical director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (OSM), calls the new building "the fulfillment of a dream that the orchestra has been waiting for through its 77-year history."
The OSM has been performing in the Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, an auditorium deemed too large and acoustically inadequate for an orchestra. The symphony must rehearse in a downstairs room and competes with comedians, musicals, pop acts and other shows to perform there.
Architect Jack Diamond, who was also responsible for Toronto's new opera house, has used the same guiding principle on Montreal's new cultural jewel.
"The lobbies are open and transparent and you can see the city and from the city you can see the audience," Diamond told CBC News.
Diamond has utilized curved walls to amplify the sound and boxes of honey-coloured Quebec beech to imbue the building with warmth. As well, the auditorium sits on massive rubber and steel pads to block vibrations from the outside.
The 2,100-seat concert hall — 19,000 square metres in size and constructed on the northeast side of the Place des Arts in the downtown area — will be slightly smaller than the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, with a stage area that incorporates a pipe organ and has room for 120 musicians and 200 singers.
La Maison Symphonique is already attracting international attention, just as Quebec music directors are making inroads in the U.S. Yannick Nezet-Seguin, who heads the Orchestre Metropolitan, is taking over the Philadelphia Orchestra, along with Jacques Lacombe at the New Jersey Symphony. And there’s Robert Lepage, who is creating the Metropolitan Opera's new Ring cycle.
Musicians sign new contract
Adding to the feeling of new beginnings is the happy news the musicians' union reached a new contract agreement Tuesday after years of troubled relations.
In fact, Nagano arrived at the symphony in 2005 on the heels of a bitter six-month strike, which occurred in the wake of maestro Charles Dutoit’s departure after an acrimonious period between Dutoit and the players.
Under Nagano, the OSM's reputation has been rebuilt and it played at New York City’s Carnegie Hall earlier this year. The new hall, it is hoped, will attract new audiences.
For the opening concert, acoustics expert Tateo Nakajima has been tinkering with last-minute adjustments.
"We've got nine moving canopies above the orchestra — they're all motorized individually."
The concert will be broadcast live tonight on CBC Radio 2 and on CBC TV beginning at 9 p.m. local time. The concert will be available on CBC.ca's Concerts on Demand on Sept. 8.