Symphonic homage to Céline Dion is a labour of love

“It’s not only a tribute concert,” conductor Alexandre Da Costa says of Céline Symphonique, at the Maison symphonique next week. “Of all the singers we invited, none of them are a copy of Céline’s voice.”

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With Céline Symphonique, Alexandre Da Costa didn’t want to just cover Céline Dion’s songs and add some strings to them.

The Montreal conductor said he hopes the show — which is at the Maison symphonique for four performances on Dec. 27 and 28 — will be a full-on symphonic reinterpretation of the Dion oeuvre.

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“We did something very different,” said Da Costa, who is the artistic director of the Orchestre Philharmonique du Québec (formerly the Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil). “It’s not only a tribute concert — it’s a symphonic take on her music. It’s very true to our mission of sharing classical music. We want this to be very different. So of all the singers we invited, none of them are a copy of Céline’s voice.

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“Everyone has a very strong personality, a very different way of seeing music and singing,” Da Costa said. “But that is what we wanted. We have Measha Brueggergosman-Lee, who is one of the greatest Canadian singers. She’s been all over the world doing Wagner roles, and she will bring that aspect to the show. Then we have a tenor coming from Paris, Vincent Niclo. Then we have our own Quebec Whitney Houston, which is Jennifer-Lee Dupuy. She has an amazing voice. She did The Bodyguard, the musical. We really appreciate the great musical ambassador that Céline Dion is, and we want to show her our affection.”

The show also features French singer Anne Sila, La Voix 2020 winner Josiane Comeau and Barnev Valsaint, who has been a backup singer with Dion for years. The six singers will be accompanied by 47 musicians from the Orchestre Philharmonique du Québec.

A woman sings while holding her hands in the air.
“I can’t even remember when I first discovered her. She was just always there from when I was very young,” Jennifer-Lee Dupuy says of Céline Dion. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

One of the big numbers in the show for Dupuy will be All by Myself, a hit for Eric Carmen in 1975 that was covered by Dion in 1996 and became one of her biggest successes. Dupuy said it’s a thrill to be in a show paying tribute to Dion.

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“The song I found the most difficult to sing was All by Myself,” Dupuy said. “Even Céline herself said it was difficult to sing because it’s a higher register than her usual voice. I feel very lucky to be able to interpret that song and do it in my own style and bring in my own personal background.”

Dupuy has always been a big Céline fan.

“Oh my gosh, I grew up in a period in Quebec when Céline’s name was literally everywhere,” Dupuy said. “She was on every TV show. We heard her songs everywhere. I can’t even remember when I first discovered her. She was just always there from when I was very young. It’s an honour to be in the show. She’s an artist who came from Quebec and had huge success internationally.”

A man plays violin in a concert hall.
As a young classical musician listening to Céline Dion’s songs, “I was thinking this could be beautiful in a symphonic setting,” Alexandre Da Costa recalls. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

Da Costa inhabits a musical universe light years removed from Dion. He’s a classical violinist and conductor. But he is also a huge fan of Quebec’s most famous chanteuse.

“I’m a big fan of Céline Dion,” Da Costa said. “I grew up with her songs. I’m 44 years old, so when I was in my teens she was at the height of her career all over the world. When I left for Europe at 18, she was everywhere. I’d say I was from Quebec and they’d say, ‘Oh, Céline Dion!’ So she’s part of my life as a musician.

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“When I was a kid listening to her music, as a classical musician, I was thinking this could be beautiful in a symphonic setting. It’s so rich. The harmonies. Because, of course, the best writers sent her songs and they picked the best songs. Her catalogue is amazing.”

Da Costa sees the concert as the meeting of two worlds: Dion’s rich catalogue and the world of classical music.

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“She’s brought to another level,” Da Costa said. “It’s more complex. It’s more stringy.”

He also thinks the timing is good given that Dion has been out of the public eye for some time, first because of the pandemic shutdown and more recently because she is suffering from stiff person syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.

“The fact that Céline is not singing right now or giving concerts, we need to reconnect with her because she’s in the thoughts of many, many people right now.”


Céline Symphonique is presented at the Maison symphonique at 2:30 and 8 p.m. on Dec. 27 and 28. Tickets are available at, priced from $99.35 to $167.60.

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