A Conversation with René Dupéré

Before Cirque du Soleil, the world of circus music was populated by brass bands and marshal music arrangements. Certainly there were occasional forays into the unusual, but it was Cirque that pioneered the concept of bringing more modern, more “world-music” sounds into a circus context. Winning accolades and influencing countless others, it is the music of Cirque du Soleil that, through the ears, prepares the mind for the wonders about to unfold before the eyes. This is a tribute not only to René Dupéré, Benoit Jutras, Violaine Corradi, and other Cirque composers, but also to Cirque’s ability to mesh all the elements of circus and stagecraft into a magical whole.

Continuing on that tradition, and featuring a 40-member choir and 57-piece symphonic orchestra, the soundtrack CD for KÀ, the latest “resident” show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, has been proclaimed by Cirque du Soleil as their “most ambitious musical project to date.” It also marks the triumphant return to the fold of its first composer, René Dupéré (Ren-ay Du-pair-ay).

Every Cirque fan with more than a few soundtrack CDs in their collection knows Dupéré’s name and have appreciated his music. His sound, with its lyrical nature and ethnic music influences, set the standard for Cirque shows to follow and gave the new circus its distinctive flavor. He has also had quite a successful career outside of the circus, with collaborations with his wife Élise Velle as well as other work.

Recently he very graciously took the time to speak with us from a secluded resort in Québec, where he and Élise were working on material for a new project for Élise. In Part One of our two-part exclusive interview, we talk about the new KÀ soundtrack CD, due to be released in the US on October 18 and currently available in the Cirque du Soleil Boutique (item #506615, $19.50 USD).

Mr. Dupéré started by explaining how he came to the KÀ project. “My first career was as a teacher, the first job in my second career as composer was for Cirque du Soleil. I worked ten years with Guy Laliberté and the circus and left [after Alegría] in 1994. I wanted to do something other than circus music. But I told [Cirque] that if they had a special project, that wasn’t under the big top and wouldn’t really include that kind of music that I [would be interested].”

“So I worked in different fields of music including movies, television series, advertising, all that stuff. Around the end of March, 2004, Guy Laliberté called and said they were looking for a composer for the KÀ show in Las Vegas. When I asked him what kind of show it was he invited me to a run-through the day after, just before the cast left for Vegas. So I went to the studio in Montréal and watched the run-through and realized that it was a huge show, a live movie on the stage. The idea I had for the music was of a movie soundtrack, a mix between Lord of the Rings and Matrix. I called Guy back and told him my idea was to have the music treated as a soundtrack, and the references to the Lord of the Rings and Matrix seemed to appeal to him, so we agreed on that and I started working.”

“I started the next morning, with the idea of a movie soundtrack. For two months I stayed at home alone with my computers, composing. Nobody heard a single note, not even [partner] Martin Lord Ferguson or [show director] Robert Lepage. I wanted to propose at least half to two-thirds of the show in terms of demos and sounds that they would like to hear.”

“I started writing very fast, because I came into the process very late. Normally [the composer is hired] one year before opening night; when I joined the show [in March, 2004] the opening night was supposed to be the end of July. But it was later postponed to November, and we were happy about that (laughs).”

Fast forward to May of 2004. “After two months, I had almost two-thirds of the show written in terms of the themes that were used. Then I sent the demos to Robert, and I had Guy and Martin listen as well. The only thing Guy told me was to be careful not to be too dramatic, because the show itself was dramatic. That was good advice, but he had heard only the dramatic music, not the music for the clowns. And there is some comic relief and poetic release in the show. [In the end] it went quite well, and the show is quite balanced in terms of emotion, [with] comic stuff and dramatic music, too.”

“Then I moved to Vegas, and Robert and I would talk almost every day. I’d adjust things, compose other things and cut things that I had already composed [due to changes in the show]. Just working and readjusting the music for the scenes with direction from the director. And since Martin and I work very fast, we could propose something [new in one or two days]. Then it was just a matter of putting it into the machine and putting the music in the theater. We realized that in two to six weeks we would be able to do any big change. Small changes could be done with the musicians on the spot.”

Many Cirque fans have been interested in what happens in that maelstrom of activity, the creation process, especially with a show whose scope and ambitions are so large. Dupéré explains, “It’s always a work in progress. The difficulty [comes in] making things happen with the technology, because things are so big, you can’t make changes [quickly]. For example, if you want to change the lighting for one scene and you have 2000 lights it’s quite a chore, you can’t do that in two hours. For some people it was a little difficult to work in that kind of “work in process.” I had no problem.”

And working with show director, Robert Lepage? “I’ve known Robert for 20 years. I saw his first show (“Circulations”) in Québec City 25 years ago. I really had fun working with him because I like people who are able to explain their demands. If they want something, and they can give you the right explanation, they give you a direction, like a movie director. And working that way with Robert was really interesting.”

Critical to the endeavor is Mr. Dupéré’s partner, Martin Lord Ferguson. “He’s my co-arranger and mixer. He’s a fantastic mixer; he’s been working with Pro Tools since he was a kid. I’m the composer and arranger, and he co-arranges with me and makes the sound bigger than I would have been able to. He’s a very important person for me because when you do this kind of show – even if the music is really good – if it doesn’t sound good, it shows.”

In prior interviews, Dupéré has commented that Cirque du Soleil is made up of 10% gamblers. We asked what gambles have been taken with this show. “The gamble of putting on a $200 million USD show (the theater and the show) and hoping that it will work is a big gamble. On my side the gamble was to include pre-recorded music in a live show. I wanted to include a choir and symphonic orchestra, with live musicians playing along with those tracks.”

“We have 32 tracks of audio on a hard disk running with the show, and nine musicians playing live. [The tracks are loaded in] a machine that allows you to move from one part of a song to another [seamlessly]. That was the biggest challenge, because you don’t want the machine to crash in the middle of a show. It was really a technical feat to accomplish, and it works very well.”

To accomplish that feat, they first had to record the samples. “We recorded the orchestra and chorus in two steps. The biggest part of the music was done in Montréal in August, 2004. Then I realized I could put more choir in the Forest and Cliff scenes. So I came back to Montréal after the previews started (on November 26), and in December we recorded more choir music which we put [into the show] in January, just before opening night.”

How are the 32 tracks of pre-recorded audio prepared for playing in sync with a band in an unpredictable, live show atmosphere? Mr. Dupéré explained the process. “We first recorded the symphonic orchestra and choir on 32 tracks. Then we’d cut the songs into chunks of music. We’d cut a chunk from Bar 1 to Bar 8, and from Bar 8 to Bar 10, and another from Bar 10 to Bar 27. If you have a melody that lasts eight bars, you know you can’t cut the melody in two. But you can repeat the last two bars of the bridge after that section two, three, four times depending on what’s happening on the stage. So, if at Bar 10 we have a problem, and we want to repeat Bars 8 to 10 [the conductor pushes a button] and it goes back to Bar 8. Otherwise it would continue non-stop.”

“The hope is to not have to repeat any sequence because everything will go fine. But if you want to improvise on a sequence you just repeat that one chunk and when you’re finished you just let the music go. The beauty is that you can cross fade from one section to another, from one bar to another, from one song to another, as long as you have previewed it. We desperately needed that kind of [technology] because we wanted to use those 32 pre-recorded tracks in the show.”

“The machine we use is called a Symphonia. It’s already widely used in musicals in New York.” And it’s versatile. “For instance, if the oboe player is sick you can just replace him with a sampler. The machine follows the music, it can slow down and speed up, and you can switch from one section to another. In KÀ, we have a sampled symphonic orchestra and a sampled choir. And we have a lot of percussion played live by the band. And [we can be] flexible throughout the show.”

But when it came time to record the soundtrack CD, they didn’t just go back to those original 32 tracks of orchestra and choir. They recorded entirely new tracks with a new orchestra and chorus, to be mixed in with the already recorded samples. “The CD soundtrack was recorded at Paramount [about mid-July to early-August, 2005]. We can put these recordings into the show if needed, but the show sounds very good with the very special samplings that I used. And we did a lot of mixing between our samples and the [newly recorded] real orchestra so [the CD] sounds bigger. We took the best of both worlds.”

They did not use the shows live musicians or singers, however. “We didn’t have time to go to Vegas and add [them] to the CD. The opening night was February 3rd, 2005, and we started working on the CD the week after. With rehearsing in the afternoon and performing two shows a night, five nights a week, they are exhausted. It would have been a chore for them to do the CD.”

“We wanted to do something else with the singers as well. The CD is telling the story a certain way and the show is telling it another way [with the added visual element]. We didn’t really want the same singers because we treated some songs quite differently; we even transposed a couple of things.”

Some fans have wondered, if a recording doesn’t include the musicians involved in the creation process, can it truly be representative of the show? Dupéré notes that, “We didn’t want to [replicate] the show on the CD. Because the format is different we added things that were intended more for the CD than the show, and the editing of the songs is different. But the color is the same. So you have orchestra, choir and percussion, and we added little spices on top of that.”

Mr. Dupéré has said that soundtrack CD’s should be “inspired by” the shows yet be able to stand on their own. Fans have suggested that the last couple of CDS releases, Varekai and Zumanity, have seemed to be on the outer edge of that in terms of taking the original source material and going in a somewhat different direction. Mr. Dupéré agrees, noting, “We were aware of that, we knew that Zumanity and Varekai were, I wouldn’t say bizarre mixes, but were [different in] the conception of the CD itself. I think it’s even more obvious with Zumanity, because “inspired by” is written on the CD cover. We didn’t want that to be written on the KÀ [CD cover].”

“Although there are 16 pieces of music [on the CD], there are 10 to 12 that are really in the color of the show. You can recognize not only the color of the show but the moment where that music is used. And I thought that was obviously the way to do it. This is a show soundtrack, not a [pop soundtrack] with songs, a lot of airplay, techno stuff. Maybe we could [alter the songs] for radio airplay, but that wasn’t our purpose. Not that we didn’t want airplay. But basically the format is a soundtrack so it has to reflect the color of the show. Since the features of the music are the symphonic orchestra and choir we couldn’t avoid them (laughs). It was the only way to treat the music.”

There are also three “conventional” songs at the end of the CD. The first one, “If I Could Reach Your Heart” is sung by wife Élise Velle, and there are two additional “bonus” tracks, “We’ve Been Waiting So Long”, and “Reach for Me Now.” “We realized there wouldn’t be any songs that would be [suitable] for airplay. So we tried to include some songs without interfering with the concept we had for the soundtrack. It was important for us that the CD goes from track 1 to 14, and the last song, sung in English and an invented language by Élise, is the end of the CD, and it’s sort of a turning point to go somewhere else. Then [there are] seven seconds of silence and this leads to the other two bonus songs that are in English. We really wanted to treat those last two songs like bonus tracks, because that’s what they are.”

“They don’t reflect the show because their purpose is to [carry on] themes that are in the show, but give another color. So the music has another color and the singer is different. “We’ve Been Waiting So Long” is based on the melody from “Shadowplay”, and “Reach for Me Now” is based on the melody of “Deep.” When played with a piano, sort of a Vangelis type of sound, it’s the same song in a different musical world.”

In fact, it’s wife Élise that brings the CD full circle by singing “If I Could Reach Your Heart,” which is based on the melody of the first track she also sings, “O Makunde.” “It “loops” the CD. And after that there are two songs that are something quite different.”

Is there any music missing from the CD that he wanted to include? “There were a couple of things I would have liked to include. At the very beginning of the show there’s a sort of “once upon a time” music. But we didn’t know where to put it, because we really wanted the CD to start with Élise singing “O Makunde”, and ending with the English version of that and the two bonus tracks. So I didn’t really know where to put this “once upon a time” song.”

While that didn’t fit the concept of the CD as it was envisioned, they might still see the light of the laser. “We might do something for the first anniversary of KÀ next February. We might do a sort of an anniversary album and include two or three extra things, we haven’t decided yet. I would include that “once upon a time” music and maybe a medley of different songs that are not used in the CD but are used in the show.”

What does Dupéré believe are the roots of KÀ’s music? “I think this is more of a soundtrack than anything else. The roots would be my classical training and studies, and ethnic music. I’ve always been crazy about ethnic music. And some modern influences like techno and hip-hop, though they aren’t really present, are in the show and are on the CD as well.”

And how would René Dupéré define his own music, what’s his signature? “Modernity and lyricism, I think. I’ve often said it’s a mix of Pink Floyd and Brahms. I also tell people that I’m sort of a romantic 19th century musician with 20th century technology.”

“And I must say that world culture is a part of my music, because I’m really aware of cultures, music from around the world. [Beginning when] I was seven my parents taught me about music. We had opera, and we had Cuban music from the fifties; Perez Prado, Xavier Cugat, that kind of mambo music. I remember being exposed to all kinds of music. And when I went to college there were priests that were really aware of different kinds of music, from Japan to Yugoslavia to Bulgaria, and they had us listen to [it all]. So I’ve been in contact with a lot of different musical cultures from early on and I think it shows in my music. With classical structure, that’s really important to me.”

In Part One of our exclusive interview with Cirque du Soleil composer René Dupéré we focused on the music and soundtrack CD of KÀ. Here the 60 year-old Mr. Dupéré (who just celebrated a birthday) speaks about other projects and interesting bits of Cirque musical history.

The first recorded piece of Cirque musical output was a 45 by Cirque house band La Fanfafonie, with “Le Cirque du Soleil” and “Le Funambule.” After expressing astonishment we knew of it, Mr. Dupéré discussed its origins. “We were not with the circus at that time. We were meeting every year, in Baie-Saint-Paul where Cirque was founded, a big gathering of street performers and musicians. I believe it was in 1984, and with Guy Laliberté we chose those two songs, both of which I wrote. There also was one called “Percuefonie” but it wasn’t on the 45. There was another 45 we did too, just for Fanfafonie. We just went into a studio and did it, in one night with a friend mixing. And that was it. I think about 1000 copies were made, I don’t know how many we sold (laughs).”

Less rare is the first version of the “Cirque du Soleil” LP (Naga 1187). Most of the selections were re-recorded three years later to become the “second version” of the album that appeared in the US on RCA (RCA 62523). “Between 1987 and 1990 a lot of acts changed. By 1990 the CD was no longer reflecting the music of the show. So we had to change a couple of things. I wasn’t there at that time, the other composer, Benoit Jutras (Ben-wah Joot-rah) did. He also arranged the first piece of the [Naga] ’87 CD (“Ouverture”), an overture that was inspired by Mozart’s “Magic Flute.” It was a nice thing he did, quite neat.”

Saltimbanco also enjoyed a re-recording, but for different reasons, and again at Cirque’s urging. “They approached me. And the changes we brought to the CD we also brought into the show, new loops and string samples.”

“[The original recording of Saltimbanco] had the flavor of the 90’s. There were a couple of things that I didn’t really like, such as the harsh guitar sounds with the big fuzz of the 90’s. [And] the percussion and ethnic flute samples were passé as a sound. I wanted to keep the essence of the music, not to change the music in itself, but to change a bit of the orchestrations and soften it a little bit. There was a lot of compression that we put on the voices [originally], so we loosened the voices. And we redid the ethnic flutes and percussion, keeping the ones that were really interesting and adding a little more percussion. And redoing all the synthesized string samples with real string samples. It was a matter of refreshing the whole thing and bringing it into the 2000’s without changing the meaning of the music.”

Long-time readers will remember we broke news of the “first” Canadian reissue of the Alegria soundtrack (BMG 73442, 2002) being channel-reversed. (That is, what was originally in the left channel is now in the right channel and vice-versa.) It’s a correction, or mistake, that has continued to today. Though Mr. Dupéré wasn’t aware of the change, he isn’t bothered. “You should try to experience it with somebody who’s never heard the music. It’s not like a symphony orchestra, where I have a big problem if I hear the strings on the right and the double bass on the left. But I didn’t listen to the new version, so I’m really surprised.”

If given the opportunity to re-imagine the Alegria soundtrack, he wouldn’t be as radical as with Saltimbanco. “Actually, if I had the opportunity, I would keep most of the music that has been recorded and remix it. I wouldn’t change a lot in terms of the music because it’s really up to date. I would change the bonus tracks, because they were recorded under the big top. That was one of the reasons I said yes to re-doing the Saltimbanco soundtrack, because I wanted to entirely re-do the bonus tracks which for me sounded awful. And it’s the same with the Alegria bonus tracks, they don’t sound the same when compared to the rest of [the music].”

“I would retouch the mixing and mastering and change a few small things. But in terms of the music I’m really quite satisfied. It’s different, it has a more European flavor than Saltimbanco, which has a jazz fusion and rock sound. It has passed the test of time without being [out of date]. It’s timeless.”

Though there are several pieces of music in Alegria that have never been officially released, he doubts he would include them if given the opportunity. That would include “Sisyphe,” the music for the swing handbalancing act, though he doesn’t recognize it by that name. “I can’t relate to the title. Besides the music that’s in the show, I composed three or four more pieces while it was on tour. One for a solo trapeze, one for a handbalancing act, and one for a diabolo.”

The opportunity to write new music as new acts are brought into a show isn’t common, however. “It happened three times on Alegria, I think it happened once or twice on Saltimbanco (for solo trapeze and a balancing act). They try to keep the same acts even if the people change. That wasn’t the case with Cirque Réinventé or Nouvelle Expérience. But since Saltimbanco they’ve kept the same music in the show, there’s not a lot of new music that’s needed.”

The music of the shows is very important to Cirque, and there are strict guidelines to preserve its integrity. “When there is any change they want to make they have to have my approbation. All the changes that were made to Saltimbanco, using the new loops and new instruments, I received a DVD [to approve].”

“Besides that, I go to each tour two times a year. It’s almost one week every time I go, so I can listen to the show five, six, seven times and rehearse with the musicians. There is a lot of care about how the music is treated.”

Music written for Cirque shows has also taken on a life outside the traveling tent and permanent theater. Josh Groban made a hit out of Quidam’s “Let Me Fall.” The company experimented with remixing for the two-CD set “Solarium/Delirium” (CDS Musique 10021). There is a whole new Cirque show, “Delirium,” using music as the basis for the visuals (as opposed to the other way around). And before that, “Soleil de Minuit (Midnight Sun),” a collaboration between Cirque and the Montréal Jazz Festival (www. montrealjazzfest.com), rocked the streets of Montréal. “The Jazz Festival brings hundreds of thousands of people to the streets,” Mr. Dupéré notes, “and cops are happy because nothing happens. People are quiet, there are no problems whatsoever.”

But we were surprised to hear that that street celebration of Cirque music wasn’t the first; another one-time-only performance occurred ten years prior! “Alegria [had been] a big hit in Québec, in Canada they sold 200,000 units, which is double platinum for us. There were lots of articles in newspapers and so on.”

“In 1995, the year after Alegria was released, people were really crazy about the music and about [Cirque]. So the Jazz Festival asked Cirque du Soleil to work with them to put together a show that would feature circus acts, lighting, effects, and my music. There were 200,000 people in the streets. It was a blast! People were listening to the music as if they were in church, nobody was talking.”

“I started off the concert by playing tuba. Somebody read a letter from my mother on stage saying how proud she was. It lasted more than two hours. We had a 55-piece orchestra. Our singers were Élise Velle from Mystère, Francesca Gagnon from Alegria, and Francine Poitras from Saltimbanco. And in the end all 200,000 people in the streets were singing “Alegria” – what a choir! It was an incredible night.”

“Midnight Sun was different interpretations of the music, changing the orchestration and arrangement. The orchestrations were made by two guys from Montréal, they did a good job. But I wasn’t actually involved with the show. It was more modern, more actual, more visual than 10 years ago. But I think ’95 was more intense and moving in that the music was more like it was on the CD’s. Sometimes when you listen to the same thing you like it played differently, but sometimes you like to hear the real thing. In the streets in 1995 we were closer to the content of the CD’s. I wouldn’t say it was the only reason people were moved, but I think it helped.”

In addition to several albums with his companion of 14 years and wife for three, Élise Velle, and his other projects (some of which are noted on their newly designed website, www.creationsnetza.com) Mr. Dupéré also composed the soundtrack to the Canadian television series, “L’ombre de L’épervier” (Analekta 8812). “In English it means, “The Shadow of the Hawk.” There’s a saying where I come from that when you see the shadow of the hawk on the ground, and you look up and you don’t see the hawk, something bad will happen soon.”

“It’s about fishermen in the 20’s who lived close to my home town. They were treated almost like slaves by a big company. The company “owned” the village and paid the fishermen with coupons that allowed them to buy things but only in company-owned stores, they couldn’t go anywhere else. And the man and woman in the show decide that [they’ve had enough], and rebel against the company. We did 23 hours of the series, 13 hours the first year and 10 the second.”

We noted there were some pretty musical ideas expressed on the CD which we wished had been developed into a longer form. “I wish I had the time to do that, [but] because it’s TV, they didn’t have any budget. We didn’t have the means to record with real instruments, so I did it on my own [with] synthesizers. It was fun, really fun.”

Musical ideas of the present are in the forefront for him now. “Actually, today we’re working with Élise on a new CD for her. We’re looking for sort of a “Buddah Bar” sound. We’re foreseeing [releasing it] either next Spring or Fall, it’ll depend on all the things we’re working on. We’re thinking of probably using a couple of songs from “Voyage”, [which] was released in Québec only. It’ll have a little bit of French, a little bit of Spanish, but will mostly be in invented languages because that’s one of our trademarks.”

Speaking of musical interpretations, how does he feel about “Solarium/Delirium?” “I was really pleased with what they did with “Delirium”. I wasn’t crazy about “Solarium,” it could have been a lot more creative than it was. It’s a matter of interpretation though; somebody else could have different feelings and I don’t mind. I was pleased with “Delirium” because it has what I think is good about Cirque du Soleil, imagination and audacity. Especially with “Kumbalawé”, that way of putting things almost out of pitch, major/minor, was just great.”

Cirque has recently released the “Le Best of” Collection (CDS Musique 20022). He’s well represented with five tracks, including “Égypte” from the no longer available studio version of Mystère. How would he populate a René Dupéré “Best Of”? “Everything I pick [would be] mostly ethnic stuff.”

From the first “Cirque du Soleil” CD: “Trapeze” “Limp Bizkit [sampled that track], their song was called “Get Ya Groove On” (from “Electric Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water,” Interscope 490759, 2000). They used 16 bars of music and put a rap on top. It was fun to hear that.”

From Nouvelle Expérience: “Éclipse” “Because of that beat, like Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk”.

From Saltimbanco: “Kumbalawé,” “Horéré Ukundé” and “Il Sogno di Volare”.

From Alegria: “Alegria,” “Querer,” and “Nocturne”.

From Mystère: “Égypte” and “Caravena” (available only on the studio version).

From “Voyage” (Netza 1440, 1995): “Ismya Vova,” “Mayalah,” “Naked Trees,” and “Argentina en la piel”. “I listened to [“Argentina”] the other day with Élise because we’re thinking of doing a couple of things in Spanish.”

From “Xotika” (Netza 1751, 1998): “Windspirits,” “Passione,” “Moon,” and “Earth,” “with the tiger roaring. And all the classic, sort of Brahms stuff.”

From “Le Belle est Dans Ton Camp” (Netza 1441, 2001)” “Passage du Hasard,” “Lits de Papier,” and “À Tous Ceux…”.

“The songs that I like most among all I have composed are “Argentina en la piel” (from “Voyage”), “Alegria,” and “Funambule” (from the Fanfafonie 45). [“Funambule” is] one of my favorite melodies. I wouldn’t say it’s the best one, but it’s one of my favorites because it reminds me of souvenirs and remembrances and nice things that happened [in the early days].”

One of the nice things was an early friendship with Cirque CEO Guy Laliberté. We asked Mr. Dupéré, who is 15 years Laliberté’s elder, for his impressions. “[He’s like] a hawk or an eagle, up in the air and seeing everything.”

“It’s really special here in Canada. I grew up in a different time in the history of Québec. I spent a long period of my life, including when I was a teenager and when I was an adult teaching kids, trying to [convey] what we were like as Québecers. That kind of separatist movement that we were part of. When I was younger we were trying to establish something here in Québec, because there was resentment against English people, for political, social, financial reasons. And that resentment could have been right or wrong, expressed or not expressed. I don’t think Guy felt that because he was from another generation where people were sure about their own identity, [they don’t] have to show that [they] are Québecers. He knows that he is and that the planet is open to him. And it was. And it lead to a kind of world vision. Watching him I realized that the planet was open to me also.”

“And he’s great at both finance and art. He can go from one to the other with equal strength in both fields. It’s a crossover between two different worlds that’s quite rare. And he’s a very faithful man, faithful to his friends.”

How far ahead is Mr. Dupéré’s life planned job-wise? “It’s not, it’s never been. I don’t know what “career” means. I have to say “no” more often than “yes.” Though I must say I’m not a workaholic. I can work very hard for long periods, but when I stop, I stop. For example, we’re in a suite here (in Québec), overlooking the lake, and I have all my synthesizers on the table, but I still feel like I’m on vacation. Because I can tame them, I’m the boss. (laughs) And usually I never work past five or six o’clock at night. At five I can just close up shop and have dinner with my wife, enjoy the evening. But I can get started at five in the morning.”

Having achieved many things in life, one has eluded him – playing cello! “But there’s so much [else] to do. When I was 40 I wanted to learn something new, something I’d never done. I [had a choice] between learning Japanese and playing cello, and I decided to learn Japanese. I’ve since forgotten everything because I didn’t get much of a chance to practice. But I can order sushi in a sushi bar with a lot of gestures and some monosyllables.” (laughs)

Drawing the interview to a close, we asked what words of wisdom he might have for young artists. “The act of creating,” he responded, “doesn’t have to hurt, it can be fun. For me it’s always been fun. If it’s not fun there’s a problem.”

“Last June I received a PHD in Music (an honoris causa doctorate) from my alma mater (Laval University) in Québec City. And they asked me to talk. I spoke about five words that I felt were critical to success in life: Passion, Craft, Courage, Chance, and Talent.”

Speaking about two of those words, he elaborated, “There was courage because it took courage to do what we did with Cirque du Soleil. I left a job as a teacher, making good money in 1981 to become a composer – it took courage to do that, too. And chance, because if Cirque du Soleil had not been in Los Angeles in 1987 maybe we would not be talking today.”

Finally, we had to ask a person who has brought so much joy to the ears and hearts of so many people, what brought him joy? “Love. Family. Food. Wine. Nature. Silence. Friendship. I’m not sure about the order though.”

My sincere thanks go to:
Mr. René Dupéré, for so graciously spending time with us,
Denis Barnabé, Sales and Marketing Manager (for the initial contact), and Micheline Nalette, Media and Communications Coordinator (for arranging the details), both from Cirque du Soleil Musique,
And my wife LouAnna for putting up with my sometimes obsessive hobby.