11/05/2012 03:57 EST | Updated 01/05/2013 05:12 EST

Long-lost Dali backdrop to star in Montreal acrobatic show

A massive Salvador Dali artwork unseen by the public for more than 60 years is on display in Montreal this week, ahead of its starring role in an upcoming stage production.

On Sunday, Montreal's Place des Arts and stage troupe Finzi Pasca unspooled a large-scale backdrop painted by the surrealist master in the 1940s. Media were treated to a close-up view Monday morning.

"It has not been seen for the last 60 years," Julie Hamelin, co-founder of Finzi Pasca and producer of its upcoming new acrobatic show La Vérità, told CBC News.

During Dali's eight years of exile in New York during the 1940s, he painted the 9m-by-15m backdrop for the 1944 ballet production Le Tristan fou (Mad Tristan), which was inspired by the classic tale Tristan und Isolde.

"The last time I think [the backdrop] was shown onstage was in London in 1949 and then they lost trace of it. Three years ago, [an anonymous European] foundation found the drop, which was already in a good state of conservation," said Hamelin, also the co-founder of Cirque Éloize.

The unnamed foundation restored the rare Dali work and, rather than display the mammoth piece in a museum or gallery, offered it to theatre creator and circus master Daniele Finzi Pasca for use in a new production. Consequently, La Vérità takes its inspiration from Tristan und Isolde as well as Dali's exile, the 1940s cabaret scene and even the artist's muse and wife, Gala.

"In the end, they decided to have the drop back onstage, where it belongs. I think this is something quite special," Hamelin said.

"Tristan und Isolde has been seen [and] told in opera, in dance, in theatre, but never acrobatically. So this is something that is quite unique: to be able to tell this story and to play a little bit with this drop."

Creative part of the production

For creator Daniele Finzi Pasca, the backdrop is like a 13th artist, invoking the world of surrealism for the 12 performers set to appear onstage.

Looking at Dali's work, "we can see that nothing is clear — there are a lot of symbols. So this fits absolutely with my kind of language. In my show, there is no general line, storyline... Always it's like something that appears in the dreams," he said.

Dali "was much more strong and deep, intense, no dreams. Much more strange — how we do say — cauchemars [nightmares]. So the dark side talks to the light side. We talk together and we will dance together."

Interested members of the public can take a closer peek at the Dali backdrop at Théâtre Maisonneuve in Place des Arts on Wednesday, during three time windows (noon, 5pm and 6:30 pm local time).

La Vérità, featuring the Dali backdrop, will have its world premiere at Théâtre Maisonneuve on Jan. 17, 2013.