A capacity crowd rose to its feet in applause in a Montreal church on Friday as Céline Dion walked behind the casket of her late husband René Angélil, the manager and impresario who catapulted the small-town Quebec singer to global fame.
It was a fitting, if unconventional, finale to a funeral service for Mr. Angélil that combined solemnity and celebrity, Christian hymns and recorded tunes by Ms. Dion, all of it broadcast live and streamed around the world.
Mr. Angélil died last week of throat cancer. He was 73.
As a testament to the couple's stature in Quebec, Mr. Angélil was honoured with a national funeral reserved for those who have left a significant imprint on the province. His service drew numerous politicians, Quebec cultural figures, as well as fans who waited in the cold for hours to ensure a spot inside the church.
The Quebec premier, Philippe Couillard, cut short his trip to the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, to fly in for the service.
"He dared say that we could be the best in the world, that this singer could be the best in the world. And he did it," Mr. Couillard said about Mr. Angélil before entering the Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal, the same church where the couple was married in 1994.
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney called Mr. Angélil "a giant."
"Together they created the greatest show-business success story in Canadian history," he said of the couple.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was represented by his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau. Federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre also attended.
During the ceremony, the couple's 14-year-old son, René-Charles, spoke emotionally about his father. "You are a tough act to follow but with your help, everything is going to be fine," he said, speaking in English. "Dad, I promise you here that we're all going to live up to your standards. Je t'aime, papa."
The service was presided over by Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine; it was co-celebrated by Ibrahim M. Ibrahim of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church in Canada, whose presence recalls Mr. Angélil's Syrian roots.
The funeral capped a week-long public outpouring for the impresario. Quebec news media featured pages and pages of tributes, broadcasters carried live feeds from Mr. Angélil's visitation and Friday's ceremony, and politicians have weighed in with accolades about the couple's contributions.
Mr. Angélil is credited with taking Ms. Dion from her humble roots in Charlemagne, Que., to the international stage. His death was played prominently not only in Quebec but on the pages and websites of People magazine, TMZ and news dailies in New York, Paris and London.
Barbra Streisand sent condolences on social media and so did the Oprah Winfrey Network, while Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where Ms. Dion has been a staple, paid homage to Mr. Angélil on its marquee.
The couple's story has now become part of Quebec lore. Mr. Angélil, himself a Canadian pop singer in the 1960s, was sent a demo tape of a willowy 12-year-old with a limpid voice in 1981. The couple started dating when Ms. Dion was 19 and Mr. Angélil was 39; he went on to manage her career with acumen and ambition, and she sold tens of millions of albums.
To ordinary Quebeckers, the couple's success was a source of pride. People like Yves Vinette, a construction worker, drove nearly two hours from a small town on Friday so he could get a seat in the church to witness the funeral first-hand.
"They deserve our respect. They worked hard and achieved something. They marked Quebec and they made Quebec known around the world," he said as he lined up behind a metal barricade alongside a large police presence.
Ms. Dion this week paid tribute to her late husband, crediting him for turning her into a superstar. "I understood that my career was in a way his masterpiece," she said in a message to the public.
The newly widowed Ms. Dion appeared drawn but composed at the funeral. After the service, she paused on the red-carpeted front steps of the church and leaned over and put her forehead on Mr. Angélil's casket before it was placed by pallbearers in a waiting hearse.
The couple leaves their three children, René-Charles and twins Nelson and Eddy, 5, who sat beside Ms. Dion during the service. Mr. Angélil also leaves three adult children from his first two marriages.