Wednesday May 19, 2021 | 7:30PM
For this concert, Ensemble Constantinople and Suzie LeBlanc have reinvented the pages left by Renaissance Venetian madrigalist Barbara Strozzi, marvellous composer and singer. A worthy heiress of Monteverdi, Strozzi created a secular vocal repertoire that intoxicates the senses. In response to her songs, Constantinople will interpret some of the masterpieces from the same period played in Ottoman and Persian courts creating a dialogue that recreates the spirit of the cultural exchanges between Venice and Eastern capital cities, such Constantinople. Suzie LeBlanc’s illustrious and unique vocals will be enhanced by the brio, nimbleness and bold improvisations of Constantinople’s five virtuosos.
This concert is generously supported by Jose Verstappen, Elaine Adair, and Jo Anne Tharalson.
Suzie LeBlanc, soprano
Internationally renowned Acadian soprano Suzie LeBlanc has carved out one of the most unique profiles of any Canadian soprano. Her extensive performing career includes not only recitals and performances around the world, with orchestras, opera companies, and new, early and traditional music ensembles, but she was widely-acclaimed as the protagonist in Rodrique Jean’s film Lost Song – named one of Canada’s Top Ten films of 2008 at the Toronto International Film Festival.
She has management experience as founder and Executive Director of Le Nouvel Opéra, a company dedicated to the exploration and presentation of lesser known works from the Baroque period. Founded in 2000, LeBlanc has led the company through the creation of multiple artistic projects which have been praised for the excellence and shown from coast to coast in Canada and in Germany.
An enthusiastic educator and mentor, Suzie LeBlanc was the early vocal music coach and artistic director of Cappella Antica at McGill University for the past three years. Previously she also taught voice and early music at the “Université de Montréal”.
She has received the Order of Canada (2015) and four honorary doctorates for her prolific performances of early music, as well as for her contribution to Acadian culture, with three recordings and a documentary. In 2011, she commissioned eleven Canadian compositions set to the poetry of Pulitzer-Prize recipient Elizabeth Bishop and recorded them on the album “I am in need of music” which won an ECMA for Best Classical Recording and was a finalist for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award. In 2014, she became the honorary patron of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia.
Ms. LeBlanc began her career as a well-known performer and scholar of Baroque repertoire. Residing in Europe between 1987 and 1999, she performed on main stages such as Het Concertgebouw, De Nederlandse Opera, The Vienna Konzerthaus, Wigmore Hall and the Proms in London. She has toured Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, the US and South America with world leading early music ensembles and worked with conductors and collaborators Ton Koopman, Sigiswald Kuijken, Richard Egarr, John Toll, Emma Kirkby, Rachel Podger and Stephen Stubbs. In 1998, she was invited to perform for the former president of Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel, at the Canadian Embassy in Prague. Returning to Montreal in the year 2000, she performed with major symphony orchestras on both sides of the border.
Her thirst and curiosity for new vistas led her to expand her repertoire from mainly Baroque to a full range of classical and modern, as well as improvisation. After her Mozart lieder album with the renowned conductor and pianist Yannick Nezet-Seguin, she recorded works of Olivier Messiaen, winning a Quebec Opus award for best contemporary music recording, explored the art of improvisation with the ensemble Mélosphère on the CD “Tempi con Variazioni,” which won an Opus Award for best World Music. Interested by the music of her native land, she recorded three CDs of Acadian traditional music (ATMA). Her recordings, numbered at 70, have received international praise and several prestigious awards: a Grammy award for Lully’s “Thésée” and a CINI award (Italy) for the opera “Orfeo” by Sartorio, in which she sings the leading role.
Suzie is the subject of several music documentaries, including “More than a thousand kisses,” and “Suzie LeBlanc and a man named Quantz”, both produced by the late Robert Chesterman for Prometheus Productions; and “Suzie LeBlanc: A Musical Quest” by Donald Winkler.
Moved by the migrations and upheavals of her Acadian ancestors, she created a multimedia performance with composer Jerôme Blais: “mouvance” which unites the words of 13 contemporary Acadian poets to Blais’s original music. The pivotal project reunited several of Suzie’s passions; research, history, literature and music. LeBlanc and the production “mouvance” are both finalists for a Prix Éloizes 2021.
Constantinople is a musical ensemble that chose the journey—geographical certainly, but also historical, cultural and inner—as its cornerstone. It draws inspiration from all sources and aims for distant horizons. Inspired by the ancient city illuminating the East and West, Constantinople was founded in 1998 in Montreal by its artistic director, Kiya Tabassian.
Since its founding, the ensemble promotes the creation of new works incorporating musical elements of diverse musical traditions around the world, drawing from medieval manuscripts to a contemporary aesthetic, passing by Mediterranean Europe to Eastern traditions and New World Baroque. Underpinned by a spirit of research and creation, Constantinople has joined forces with leading international artists such as singers Marco Beasley, Françoise Atlan, Savina Yannatou and Suzie Le Blanc; the Mandinka griot Ablaye Cissoko; the Greek ensemble En Chordais, the Belgian duo Belem and the American group The Klezmatics; sarangi virtuoso Dhruba Ghosh, Syrian clarinettist and composer Kinan Azmeh, and Iranian kamancheh master Kayhan Kalhor.
Regularly invited to perform in international festivals and prestigious concert halls, such as the Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Berliner Philharmonie, the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music in Morocco, the Rencontres musicales de Conques in France, the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, the Cervantino Festival in Mexico, the Festival de Carthage in Tunisia, the Onassis Cultural Centre-Athens and the BOZAR in Brussels, Constantinople is acclaimed by the public, music professionals and critics alike. The ensemble has 18 albums to its credit on labels Analekta, Atma, World Village, Buda Musique, MaCase, and Dreyer Gaido. Over the past fifteen years, Constantinople has created nearly 50 works and travelled to more than 170 cities in 40 countries.