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Handel Messiah with Yannick Nézet-Séguin in Vieux-Montréal

Reviewed by S. Lachterman
December 19, 2023
George Frideric Handel - Messiah
Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal
Soloists: 
Spencer Britten (Tenor), Rose Naggar-Tremblay (Mezzo-Soprano), Magali Simard-Galdès (Soprano), Philippe Sly (Bass-Baritone)
Ensemble: 
Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal
Conductor: 
Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Nézet-Séguin conducting Messiah
Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal with Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal

Handel's Messiah in Montréal:

Tonight, in the sapphire and gold interior of the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, Maestro Séguin led the Orchestre Métropolitain with four remarkable soloists in Handel’s most popular oratorio, a staple of the Christmas season.  Having been knocked out by the Hallelujah chorus when I was three years old, I still find this “chestnut” a great thrill.  I’m sure many have found that this movement never completely loses its luster and inspiration. The four soloists were unknown to me, but have ample presence in Canada. Nonetheless, each imparted some special nuance, cadenza, or phrasing that brought variety and intelligence to this hallowed, almost memorialized work.

 

The soloists were all strong. Tenor Spencer Britten. possessed a beautifully rich voice, completely devoid of that mannered nasally suffused delivery that can traditionally plague the part.  Rose Naggar-Tremblay  revealed a vocal depth that burnished her numbers. Soprano Magali Simard-Galdès was radiant throughout.  Of special grandeur, was bass-baritone Philipple Sly, a brilliant and stentorian presence, especially in the triumphant “The trumpet shall sound.”

 

Maestro Seguin’s handling of the faster contrapuntal choruses excelled over the softer slower numbers, where the chorus seemed a bit uneven and wobbly. Sometimes, Mr. Séguin tried to create an overly nuanced dynamic line that left an unresolved impression.  However, in the choruses that count (including Hallelujah) the maestro achieved some great climaxes. Although the orchestra used modern instruments, the strings played without vibrato, which lent the thinner silvery veneer of a Baroque period sound.  Technically, strings, winds, brass, and percussion were perfectly paced with-- transparent yet emphatic.

 

The remarkable interior of the Basilica imparted a visual splendor which adorned the entire evening.  Though not a Catholic oratorio, this memorable performance certainly graced

this two-hundred-year-old landmark of Vieux-Montréal.

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