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Lemieux and Zeitouni Enthral Festival Goers

Amphithéâtre Fernand-Lindsay, Joliette
07/16/2011 -  
Richard Wagner: Overture and Venusberg Bacchanale from Tannhäuser
Hector Berlioz: Chasse royale et orage, “Ah ! Je vais mourir” from Les TroyensLes Nuits d’été
Jules Massenet: “Werther, Werther! Qui m’aurait dit la place …” from Werther
Camille Saint-Saëns: Bacchanale, “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Samson et Dalila

Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Contralto)
Orchestra of the Festival de Lanaudière, Jean-Marie Zeitouni (Conductor)

J.M. Zeitouni & M.-N. Lemieux (© Festival de Lanaudière)

On Saturday evening the young Québecois conductor, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, the Orchestre du Festival and the reigning Québecois contralto, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, delivered an enthralling program at Joliette’s Festival de Lanaudière.

Zeitouni, recently appointed music director and principal conductor of I Musici de Montréal, as well as music director of the Columbus Symphony in Ohio, opened the program with an impressive rendition of Wagner’s Overture and Venusberg from Tannhäuser. Zeitouni showed an excellent grasp of Wagner’s rhythmic, over-arching line. The Pilgrims’ Chorus was riveting and shone with seductive warmth, particularly from the horns, brass and winds. The Venusberg was delivered with bacchanalian verve, and the warm, fluid playing by solo clarinettist Martin Carpentier brought the work to an ethereal conclusion. Zeitouni maintained throughout an excellent blend among all sections of the orchestra and exhibited the kind of restraint that keeps the listener savouring every note. Zeitouni could become a true Wagnerian conductor.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, singing in her prime, chose an all French repertory. She never ceased to enchant with Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’été. Her warm, dusky contralto, with just a hint of vibrato, was comfortable throughout the song cycle, from the lowest notes to the high refrain, “Ah! sans amour, s’en aller sur la mer!”, in “Sur les lagunes”, to the powerfully realized “Absence”, to the melancholy and gravitas of “Le Spectre de la rose”. Her diction was flawless and her delivery tasteful and nuanced.

Lemieux pulled out all the stops in the second part of the concert. She opened with “Werther, Werther! Qui m’aurait dit la place …” from Massenet’s Werther. Her interpretation ranged from heart-breaking tenderness to agonized terror. She followed with a plaintive and powerful rendition of “Ah! Je vais mourir” from Berlioz’ Les Troyens, concluding with the guaranteed crowd-pleaser “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila.

After this generous program Lemieux continued to delight the audience with a rollicking encore of Bizet’s “Habanera” from Carmen. Flirting with Zeitouni and engaging the crowd to sing along, she brought down the house. After the curtain calls she motioned to the audience that her voice was incapable of delivering another encore.

Preceding the Berlioz and Saint-Saëns arias respectively, Zeitouni and his Orchestre du Festival performed Chasse royale et orage from Les Troyens and the Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila. Both were delivered with assurance and panache, and Zeitouni drew impressive performances from all sections of the orchestra. Orchestre du Festival consists of musicians brought together for the four-week festival from various sources; these include the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and the Orchestre Métropolitain. They are doing a splendid job.

Festival de Lanaudière

Earl Arthur Love



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