“Yannick” Conducts Verdi’s Requiem in Montreal
Maison symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts
Giuseppe Verdi: Messa da requiem
Ailyn Pérez (Soprano), Karen Cargill (Mezzo-Soprano), John Mac Master (Tenor), Andrew Foster-Williams (Bass-Baritone)
Choir of the Orchestre Métropolitain, François Ouimet and Pierre Tourville (Choir Masters), Orchestre Métropolitain, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Conductor)
Y. Nézet-Séguin (Courtesy of Orchestre Métropolitain)
Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducted his hometown orchestra, the Orchestre Métropolitain, in Verdi’s Requiem on Sunday in Montreal. It could be argued that he delivered a reprise of what the New York Times called a “heaven-storming performance” at Carnegie Hall last October with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Westminster Choir. The Dies irae and Sanctus were tight and thunderous, the opening Requiem aeternam and the Sanctus hushed and ethereal, and almost everything else expertly executed. Overall, however, it lacked the cohesion, architectural line and, especially, the radiance which one normally associates with much of Nézet-Séguin’s work.
The most distinctive soloists were Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill and Canadian tenor John Mac Master. Cargill’s hearty, full-bodied voice and impressive range captivated throughout—not least in her soft, delicate rendition of Quid sum miser. Mac Master’s vocal and physical heft recalled a younger Ben Heppner. He sometimes pushed his top notes, but he more than made up for this in the color and character of his performance. English bass-baritone Andrew Foster-Williams sang with authority and well-rounded tone. Soprano Ailyn Pérez, replacing Amber Wagner, is a recent winner of the Richard Tucker and Plácido Domingo awards. She sang with a pure, angelic tone without a hint of vibrato, but couldn’t project well in the lower range.
The Orchestre Métropolitain Choir of about 130 members was well prepared by choir masters François Ouimet and Pierre Tourville. They delivered a silken, seamless sound in the opening Requiem aeternam and, save for a couple of ragged entries near the end of the mass, were the stars of the afternoon.
The medium-sized orchestra gave a technically sound performance and it struck an appropriate pace in parts of the Lacrymosa, Offertorio and Libera me. The playing from at least two of the four trumpets in the balcony for the Dies irae, however, was unacceptable.
The performance began 15 minutes late, due partly to opening remarks from Nézet-Séguin. As in his performance at Carnegie Hall, he kept his arms raised excessively long to delay applause at the end of the final Requiem aeternam. It may have been warranted at Carnegie Hall, but the final measures of Sunday’s performance lacked the reverberating tension to justify such an action in Montreal.
Earl Arthur Love