Contralto Rose Naggar-Tremblay presents The Women Who Leave
On Wednesday, December 13, at 7:30 p.m., Quebec contralto Rose Naggar-Tremblay, whose career is sharply rising, will present a very personal and moving project titled The Women Who Leave.
In this recital she explores the peregrinations of women, inspired by Marisol’s life and artistic practice in conjunction with the exhibition Marisol : A Retrospective on display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) until January 21, 2024. We caught up with the artist to learn more about this fascinating project, and about the origins of the song cycle Mar y sol, jointly commissioned by Bourgie Hall and Rose Naggar-Tremblay and which will have its world premiere on this occasion.
The Question of Departures and the Making of a Recital
These questions surrounding movement had occupied Rose Naggar-Tremblay for over a year when she approached Olivier Godin, Artistic Director of Bourgie Hall, in order to develop a recital addressing women’s impulse to leave. After he mentioned that the MMFA was planning an exhibition about Venezuelan artist Marisol, she dove headfirst into Marisol’s work, her biography, the power of creative gestures, her emancipation, but also her ability to constantly reinvent herself. These discoveries led to a song cycle paying tribute to Marisol’s work that imagines her response regarding traditional vocal repertoire, which tends to represent women as static entities: notably, in lieder by Brahms, Schubert and Schumann, among others, women are typically reduced to domestic fixtures in a perpetual state of waiting. What would Marisol respond to these women? What poetry and vision would she use in order to kindle this same momentum in them?
The question of departures is of paramount importance to this project. For women, largely seen as the social glue and the ones who build community bonds, leaving is often a source of ambiguity. Leaving a job that is no longer satisfying, or leaving an abusive relationship, often occurs following a lengthy process. There is also the departure towards death, which many women face alone, particularly in long-term care facilities. In response to this, Rose Naggar-Tremblay wished to absorb this desire to set goals, experience adventures and incorporate a certain linearity into her artistic practice, while simultaneously questioning what this would represent for Marisol as well. This was a time in her life when she was experiencing frequent departures, and this pivotal period forced her to learn to live out of a suitcase and to come to terms with the reality of a career requiring her to be constantly on the move. What she offers us here is a recital in three parts: the first relates to waiting and languor, the second to departures, and the last one, to solitude and death.
Placed at the centre of these considerations, women are omnipresent in this recital. Firstly, due to the strong link with the retrospective currently on display at the MMFA recounting Marisol's career, a committed artist for whom the feminist movement held a significant place. And secondly, because it will culminate in the creation of the song cycle Mar y sol by Canadian-American composer Luna Pearl Woolf, a joint commission by Bourgie Hall and Rose Naggar-Tremblay on poems written in collaboration with participants of a series of art therapy workshops that took place at the MMFA.
Art therapy workshops at the MMFA and the cycle Mar y sol
In order to explore these profound questions, Rose Naggar-Tremblay, together with art therapist Yan Yee Poon, led two creative workshops that took place in the spring of 2023, and which brought together approximately ten women on each occasion. She chose not to write anything prior to the workshops, appearing before the participants as a blank slate: through both Marisol’s works and the techniques she used, Rose Naggar-Tremblay and the participants first encountered the Venezuelan artist in concrete terms through the material she used and her artistic gestures by creating their own works in response to hers.
These workshops then led to circles of reflection on the participants’ experiences and on what they felt during this confrontation with Marisol’s art. These in turn inspired the writing process. That summer, Rose Naggar-Tremblay traveled all over the world thus finding herself in this constant state of motion that comes from the act of leaving, captivated by the thoughts kindled by these encounters. She was also driven by the desire to create a narrative framework for the recital: a complex task since ultimately, she is not so much telling a story but rather reflecting upon states of being.
The participants met again in the fall of 2023 to partake in poetry and singing workshops: Rose Naggar-Tremblay had them experience how she conceived the recital. She shared the results of the previous workshops with them, and participants even learned an excerpt from the song cycle Mar y sol.
Collaborating With Composer Luna Pearl Woolf
Rose Naggar-Tremblay and Luna Pearl Woolf’s first encounter took place during an intermission at the opera. According to the singer, there was an immediate artistic connection, and when the time came to develop the project, the choice of the composer was obvious.
But how could one describe the music of Mar y sol? To this question, Rose Naggar-Tremblay replied: “It’s incredibly difficult to describe her musical style! It’s pure Luna. There is some word painting, and one feels the presence of the sea: especially in the melodies, one feels the momentum, the soaring flights. The piano provides something that is more ironic: the pop art element, the comic element, and self-deprecation. But there is humour for sure! The first and last movements are primarily melodic, while the central part is more spoken.”
A significant issue arose during the composition process of the cycle: how to transcribe Marisol's silences into music, as the Venezuelan artist had a particularly enigmatic and evanescent personality, having taken a vow of silence at the age of 11 following her mother's suicide? Images of the sea and the sun thus became a common thread, as both are entities that evade clear definition, but which possess infinite poetic baggage and considerable evocative power. The sea and travel were also crucial to Marisol's life, inspiring her work and shaping her personality.
Rose Naggar-Tremblay: A Rising Star
A rising star of opera, “the depth of timbre, equality of the voice, masterful breath control, and emotion of the singing” (Le Devoir) that Rose Naggar-Tremblay displays are remarkable. Named “Révélation Radio-Canada 2022-2023” for classical music, she is the recipient of the Fernand-Lindsay career grant as well as other prestigious awards, and in 2021 she notably won the International Singing Competition Georges Enesco in Paris, the OSM Competition, and placed second at the Prix d’Europe.
Apart from the song cycle Mar y sol by Woolf / Naggar-Tremblay, the public will hear works by Brahms, Schubert, R. Schumann, Fauré, Bosman, Chausson, G. Mahler, and A. Mahler.
Rose Naggar-Tremblay will be accompanied on the piano by Julien LeBlanc, with actor Chantal Lambert also taking part.
For those passionate about music and the visual arts, the Musical Canvas package combines a talk and welcome drink at 5 p.m. with a visit of the exhibition Marisol: A Retrospective at 6 p.m., followed by the concert at 7:30 p.m.
Let yourself be mesmerized by Rose Naggar-Tremblay as she performs the aria “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” from the opera Samson et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns.