ATMA Classique is delighted to release the world premiere recording of David Bontemps’ 2020 chamber opera La Flambeau, based on the eponymous drama by Haitian playwright Faubert Bolivar. La Flambeau was premiered on February 7, 2023 at Montréal’s Salle Pierre-Mercure with Suzanne Taffot, Catherine Daniel, Paul Williamson and Brandon Coleman and the Orchestre classique de Montréal, conducted by Alain Trudel.
Set in Haiti, the libretto for La Flambeau was adapted by Bontemps himself. La Flambeau tells the story of a dysfunctional couple, Monsieur (a narcissistic, ambitious intellectual obsessed with the ideals of the Republic) and Mademoiselle (who talks to her dead parents), who hire a working-class housewife. Through imposed dogma and deceptive behaviour, Monsieur abuses Mademoiselle. After a trial and a surreal confession, Monsieur is condemned through a kind of popular justice to become a zombie at the service of all.
The music, woven from accessible melodies and imbued with Afro-Haitian elements, uses thematic cycles that intensify with the plot. “From a musical point of view, Bontemps’ work adopts the ascetic style of chamber opera: the four characters express themselves in an unadorned melodic language, chanted to the rhythm of the spoken word and a string orchestra supported by the light percussion of a pair of maracas,” says musicologist Claude Dauphin about La Flambeau.