The 1895-6 season, the most ambitious, ended prematurely in a scandal. A new director, Arthur Durieu, had engaged such prima donnas as Mmes Essiani, Bennati, and Conti-Bessi and the baritone Vandiric, and the season opened with Thomas's Le Songe d'une nuit d'été, followed by Mireille, Martha, Norma, Lucia di Lammermoor, Carmen, Les Huguenots (with a reduced score for small orchestra by Dorel), and William Tell, among others. Early in 1896 there was talk of the venture's financial difficulties. On the evening of 12 February the curtain failed to rise on The Barber of Seville, and, after a lengthy pause, a singer came out to explain to the public that a considerable amount of money was owing to the artists. Meanwhile, members of the chorus had occupied the director's office. The indignant spectators gradually left the hall. The press made much of the affair, writing about the distress of the artists who sought to return to France. The St-Jean-Baptiste Society offered the hall of the Monument national, where the company gave Le Prophète and also a benefit performance 22 February. Ernest Lavigne offered the artists a week of engagements at the Sohmer Park concerts. A few, including Mme Bennati, settled in Montreal, but the majority eventually returned to France. That autumn Lavigne tried to reorganize the company with other artists but was only moderately successful. The Théâtre français, which had been renovated in 1895 and equipped with electricity, was used for variety shows until it was destroyed by fire in March 1900.
Author Gilles Potvin
Pelletier, Frédéric. 'L'Opéra français,' Entre-Nous, vol 2, Jan 1931
Barrière, Mireille. L'Opéra français de Montréal, 2002
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