Note: This interview was conducted in English. We've transcribed our talk here verbatim with only minor edits. We thank Pierre for accommodating "Floydian Slip" by speaking to us in our native language. Photo: Yves Renaud.
Floydian Slip (FS): There's a new opera currently playing in Montreal based on Pink Floyd's "The Wall." Joining us now on the phone is one of the organizers of that production, Pierre Dufour. Thanks for joining us.
Pierre Dufour (PD): This is a pleasure.
FS: On the surface of it, this seems like a nutty idea. You take a rock opera and you turn it into a real opera. Whose idea was this?
PD: In fact, that was my idea. You know, if I'm going a little bit backward into my history and the connection that I have with that album. You know I start listen to that album more than 37 years ago and for me I always listen to that album a little bit like it was an opera, because for me there's an automatic resonance that I had with all the words of Mr. Waters. I lost my father, I was eight years old, and I found a lot of comfort because basically a bit of the album is based on the fact that this is an orphan.
Since I've been with the Montreal Opera a little more since 16 years ago, then the germ came in my mind. I said, "It should be and would be a great opera to put 'Another Brick in the Wall' as an opera version." A few years, three years and a half ago when I've been approached by the 375th Anniversary Commissioner Gilbert Rozon, he asked me, "Do you have any out of the blue projects, something that you really would like to do as an opera?" I said, "Why don't we try to do 'Another Brick in the Wall' or 'The Wall' to do an opera version? And everything start from there.
FS: So at what point in the planning process did you approach Roger Waters? Because without his buy-in, I'm guessing it couldn't happen.
PD: You're totally right. So we start to approach Mr. Waters I would say three years from now, yeah, two years ago. It has been quite a long process being able to be in touch with him, and when we start some email correspondence with him saying that we wanted to propose him to do an opera version of it. He wrote us that he was touched and moved but in fact he quote that for him he never has listened to anything took from pop or rock translate into an opera that was not significant enough. He had some doubt about it.
So we approached Julien Bilodeau, ask him to make some tracks, some digital audio tracks so the music wasn't synthesizer. After that we went with Etienne Dupuis. We record with a small chorus a version of "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" and we had the occasion on the 17th of December 2014 to have the privilege to meet Mr. Waters and give him the opportunity to listen the track that we have created, that Julien had composed in fact, and that was "In the Flesh," "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" and "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2."
Then after the listening session, Mr. Waters says, "It's good. It's really good." Then we continued the process with him.
FS: What do you think it is about the story of "The Wall" that makes it resonate so much with people?
PD: Oh, there's a lot of aspect in it. You probably know the piece better than I do but all the story about "The Wall" is a story on humanity. You know, today as we can see what's going on in United States, that they want to build for example a wall between Mexico and United States, when you see what did happen and still happen in France at Calais with the migrants and stuff like that, I think.
It's a story of love. It's a story of in fact, Roger Walters lost his grandfather, or his father left his father during the First World War, and that was the same sad issue with his own father because he died at the Second World War. All the quests of the missing father is, for me, very relevant and as I said a little bit earlier, this is something that profoundly touch me at my first listening of that piece.
We really believe that that piece is timeless. I think modestly our artistic intention was not to try to do something too close of what Mr. Walters already have done so well. You know, we really want, our idea was to bring a different story around the myth of "The Wall." We're quite convinced and a lot of feedback that we had that presenting in an opera version give an opportunity to the audience to have a better understanding of the lyric of the piece itself.
Do you agree with me that, does it brought you a different perspective regarding the wording? And the poetry that Mr. Walters has in his writing?
FS: Absolutely. I would say that although it's a true opera, as far as the music goes, I would say that your show is a lot more rock and roll than you might realize. And I don't mean in the music, per se. I mean rock and roll is really more of an attitude. And I would say the opera in its production and its presentation and design, costumes and all that sort of stuff, is maybe more rock and roll than a lot of people might think when they first sit down to watch it.
PD: You know, there's two kind of audience that come to see the show, okay? We can expect to have a more traditional or more experienced with the operatic medium. Then we have the person who not necessarily never attend any opera but are quite curious and know probably well the work of Mr. Waters. Both of them have some acclimation during the performance because you know, it's so different than the original piece of Mr. Waters, and we have to establish in the first act how the lecture and the reading that we have artistically regarding that show.
I think it creates a real build-up so when the second part starts, the audience either it is familiar to opera or more familiar to Mr. Waters' work, can appreciate it very well.
FS: So you're running through the 27th of March in Montreal, and then we'll watch for the show coming to the U.S. sometime in 2018. Thank you so much for talking with us.
PD: Thank you so much.
FS: Pierre Dufour, General Director, of Productions Opera Concept MP, the folks putting together "Another Brick in the Wall," an opera based on "The Wall." We'll watch for it coming to Cincinnati in 2018.
Recorded March 14, 2017; aired March 20-26, 2017
Interviewed by Floydian Slip's Craig Bailey
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