Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan



What do you get when you combine opera with tango? You get TANGOPERA performed by a highly skilled quartet aptly named Quartango and an extraordinary soprano, Marie-Josée Lord. Together, they produced a magical evening of musical entertainment at Partridge Hall in the brand new FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines.

Quartango consists of Stephane Aubin, piano, Jonathan Goldman, bandoneon, Rene Gosselin, double bass and Antoine Bareil, violin. With Aubin and Bareil contributing their own compositions, together, the quartet produced an eclectic repertoire that ranged from classic tangos such as El Choclo and Adios Nonino to tango nuevo and Piazzolla. They daringly explored other genres, from jazz and opera to waltzes and Celtic jigs, in their own enthusiastic, merry style.

Marie-Josée Lord is a Haitian-born Canadian soprano who grew up in Lévis, Quebec. She made her professional debut as Liù in Turandot in 2003 at the Opéra de Quebec and has performed all over the world.

She displayed incredible range, her pure resonance at first softly floating skywards and then suddenly powerful and commanding, all the while sculpting sound itself with her remarkable voice and expressive hands. She sang George Gershwin's Summertime unlike any other rendition I have heard and her treatment of Puccini's Quando m'en vo from La Bohème and Velazquez's Besame mucho was so stunningly beautiful that she drew wild cheers from the appreciative audience.

The combination of tango and opera worked nicely, the tango beat always pulsing ahead with its wonderful life-giving surges and the rich soprano voice adding range and depth, both combining in a powerful synergy to produce unforgettable sound that mesmerized the enthralled crowd. Quartango's terrific rendition of Brubeck's Blue rondo a la Turk, a personal favourite, literally blew me away.

This was my first visit to the Performing Arts Centre, and it is certainly an achievement for locals to be proud of, an obvious stimulus for urban renewal evidenced by new restaurants appearing directly across the street. The seating (782 seats) is quite comfortable and generous with plenty of room and the hall's wooden walls appealing. The sightlines are wonderful with not a bad seat in the house. My one diatribe is the coldness of the bare floor.

As far as access is concerned, there is ample public parking abutting the Centre located at the corner of St. Paul St. and Carlisle St. The multiple venues will be a great boost for Brock's programs as well as that of local theatre.

Marie-Josée Lord

Partridge Hall, photo by  Bob Magee

St. Catharines FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre photo by Lauren Garbutt

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