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Date: 14 June 2003
: Outdoor Stage on West 7th Avenue

Reviewer: John Jane





Long before Celine Dion was the darling of Quebec popular music, there was Diane Dufresne. However, where Celine has parlayed her unquestionable talents well beyond her original fan base, Ms Dufresne has fiercely resisted compromising her artistry to commercialism.

Last weekend the enigmatic diva swept into town to kick off the Festival d'été Francophone de Vancouver and the good news is that the charismatic Dufresne style is alive and well. Dufresne is foremost a live performance artist. She has never been the type of performer who will simply arrive on stage, sing a few songs and hope for audience approval. She goes right out to seduce her audience with surreal collages and dramatic images expressed within a total production.

Her nouvelle spectacle, vaguely titled "En Liberté Conditionnelle", has already been well received in Paris and Montreal and exposes the audience to two diametrically opposed facets to her personality. The first act is dedicated to ‘Dufresne - La chanteuse’. Dressed in a long sage green wraparound gown and red gloves, she covers melancholic chansons d’amour such as Edith Piaf’s plaintive La Vie en Rose and Jacques Brel’s haunting Quand on n’a que L’amour. (When one only has love)

The second act, coming after a fifteen minute intermission, which seemed more like half an hour, was given to ‘Dufresne - La rockeuse’, where we saw the performer metamorphoses into a flamboyant rocker.






Act two was to be much livelier, with Dufresne and her five-piece band offering an edgier performance, opening with the amusingly titled Les Hauts et les Bas d’une Hôtesse de l’air (The ups and downs of an air stewardess). At fifty-eight, Dufresne has replaced explicit sexuality with a more sublime coquettish style, this had not however, diminished her physical stage presence. This was demonstrated with incredible effect in her rearranged interpretation J’ai Douze Ans, (I’m twelve years old) perched three metres above the stage floor in a giant infant’s high chair, she enacted a child’s confusion over her mother’s death. This was pure felliniesque!

During the encore, Dufresne acknowledged the audience’s forbearance with the rain, which had continued since midway through the intermission. She then stepped from the stage and walked slowly down the central isle, shaking hands and generally connecting with the crowd. Although perhaps not entirely spontaneous, it is this kind of deed that has cultivated the love affair that obviously exists between the Quebec chanteuse and her fans.

Some critics have charged that Dufresne’s following is made up of marginals such as fervent nationalists and political intellectuals. That is unfair. All I saw last Saturday evening, were a few hundred good-humoured, normally transparent members of the Vancouver community - pour chercher les bonne temps.

.© 2003, John Jane