The 20th anniversary of Maria Callas' death was in 1997 and, for the occasion, clarinetist Robert M. Lepage and experimental turntablist Martin Tétreault teamed up to record Callas: La Diva et le Vinyle, one of the most original tributes to the great opera singer. Tétreault works his magic with a shelf of Callas records, opera lectures, bird sounds, etc., quoting the diva out of context, and redefining her voice through speed changes, repetitions, and other manipulations. Lepage transforms his clarinet into another voice, performing duets with the "singer," mimicking her, enhancing her language. Opera purists will shriek, but Lepage and Tétreault's approach, no matter how deconstructive and genre-bending it might be, always remains respectful -- respect does not exclude humor.
Tétreault plays Callas; Callas plays Lepage; Lepage plays Tétreault. This is the perfect triad. From Lepage's side, Callas: La Diva et le Vinyle is his most experimental recording to date. Thanks to the stripped-down instrumentation (Tétreault doesn't impose), a lot of room is left for his soulful clarinet playing; "Profondeur de Champ," with the turntables far in the background, is a wonderful showcase for Lepage. From Tétreault's side, this is one of his very strong performances. Working with a predetermined corpus, he manages to surprise, slip a few unrelated things under the table, and show his incredible mastery of the turntable and its tools. Strongly recommended.