Senator Roméo Dallaire and Montreal audiences have praised the city's symphony orchestra and conductor Kent Nagano for this week's original tribute to the formerUN peacekeeping commander.
The General is a musical work comprising excerpts from Beethoven's Egmont Overture, woven together with an originalnarrative inspired by Dallaire's attempts to stop the Rwandan genocide.
Acclaimed actor Colm Feore served as narrator, delivering the libretto alongside the orchestra in Montreal on Tuesday and Wednesday night.
"To hear in the first person someone saying things that I had lived, and reinforced by an extraordinary, powerful orchestra with that music, I found it quite extraordinary," Dallaire told CBC News.
The project was the brainchild of Nagano, the MSO's enthusiastic conductor and music director.
The General marked the second production in the U.S. conductor's ongoing attempt to celebrate Canadian heroes through music. The series began last November, when the MSO honoured Terry Fox with a performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
Nagano asked music historian Paul Griffiths, a former music critic for the New Yorker magazine, to create a libretto inspired by Dallaire's experiences to accompany the exuberant Beethoven symphony.
While Griffiths said he loved Nagano's idea from the start, he initially thought it would be impossible to match Dallaire's tragic tale to the optimistic music of Egmont.
"The key was the word, 'No,'" Griffiths said.
"It starts with gloom and despondency, and ends with radiant joy and triumph. The protragonist says, 'No, it wasn't like that,' and then we can go into the story."
Griffiths also decided to change the conclusion of the production.
Rather thanending withthe so-called Victory Symphony, The Generalconcludes with Beethoven's little-known Opferlied (Song of Sacrifice), featuring the MSO chorus and German soprano Christiane Oelze.
While The General received standing ovations, local critics gave it mixed reviews.
The Montreal Gazette said "the 55-minute opus lands essentially on the side of success," but also drew attention to the "fundamental disconnect between Beethoven's supremely affirmative music and the news coming out of Rwanda."