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Mireille Lebel Triumphs with Les Violons du Roy

Salle Bourgie, Museum of Fine Arts
06/06/2018 -  & June 4, 2018 (Quebec City)
George Frideric Handel: Giulio Cesare in Egitto, HWV 17: Overture, “Svegliatevi nel core, furie d’un alma offesa” and “L’angue offeso” – Concerti Grossi for Strings in D major & in B flat major, Op. 6 No. 5, HWV 323, & Op. 6 N° 7, HWV 325 – Rinaldo, HWV 7: “Cara sposa” – Agrippina, HWV 6: Overture – Alcina, HWV 34: “Verdi prati” – Ariodante, HWV 33: “Scherza infida”
Antonio Vivaldi: Juditha triumphans devicta Holofernes Barbarie, RV 644: “Agitata infido flatu”

Mireille Lebel (Mezzo-soprano)
Les Violons du Roy, Bernard Labadie (Conductor)

M. Lebel (© Pierre-Etienne Bergeron)

Quebec City’s premier chamber group, Les Violons du Roy, treated Montreal concertgoers on Wednesday evening to a foretaste of their upcoming Latin American tour. Scheduled for June 9–13, 2018, it was to have featured mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená who, citing family reasons, cancelled. For the tour, she is scheduled to be replaced by the Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva. The Quebec City and Montreal concerts, however, featured Canadian mezzo-soprano Mireille Lebel. It proved to be a felicitous choice.

Ms Lebel triumphed in a program featuring five arias by Handel and one by Vivaldi. Her dusky, robust mezzo, with just a modicum of vibrato, dazzled with confident technique and expressive colour. She sang throughout the demanding vocal range with ease, and imbued each aria with the appropriate dramatic touches as required. Her trills and embellishments were refined and nuanced. And to the delight of the audience she ratcheted up the volume in the intimate Bourgie Hall (which seats 462) for the final aria, “Scherza infida” from Handel’s Ariodante. Ms Lebel normally handheld her texts, but for the more dramatic arias–from Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto and Vivaldi’s Juditha triumphans–she used a lectern to permit a more dramatic physical interpretation at which she excelled. Svelte and resplendent in a tight dusty-silver gown set off by her lustrous mane of flaming red hair, she unquestionably possessed the attributes to portray a convincing Cleopatra and Judith!

Founding conductor of Les Violons du Roy, Bernard Labadie, led the ensemble’s strings in dynamic, tightly-controlled performances of two concerti grossi from Handel’s Opus 6. He wrote the 12 concerti to be played between oratorios and odes performed at London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields during the 1739-1740 season. The two concerti grossi chosen here–No. 5 in the first half of the program and No. 7 in the second half–fitted nicely between each of Lebel’s two appearances before and after intermission. Memorable moments included sprightly violin solos by Pascale Gigučre, haunting largo movements with deep sonorities from the double bass, and the pulsating beats of No. 5’s second allegro. The ensemble played with relish the concluding hornpipe of No. 7. Except for a brief duet with the oboe in the overture to Agrippina and during the second largo of No. 7, the archlute (placed just in front of the conductor), could rarely be heard.

The most exhilarating performance belonged to the penultimate aria, “Agitata infido flatu” from Juditha triumphans. The swooning rhythmic pulse of both the ensemble and Ms Lebel vividly depicted the treacherous wind-swept flight of the sad swallow.

The concert in Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts was presented by the Arte Musica Foundation whose mission is “to fill the Museum with music”.

For details of the Violons du Roy’s upcoming tour visit
Bourgie Hall

Earl Arthur Love



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