Les Violons du Roy kicked off their Montreal season on Sunday afternoon at the Maison Symphonique. It was the third performance of this concert, after the first two at the Palais Montcalm in Quebec City, and a work of a very particular form.
La Senna festeggiante is a serenade, a form straddling the divide between (pagan) cantata and opera, which praises France through a sometimes subtle, sometimes less so, allegory built around three characters embodied by the three soloists: soprano Robin Johannsen, mezzo-soprano Ana Reinhold and bass Alex Rosen.
These soloists were fantastic, transporting the audience to the banks of the Seine with enchanting duets from the female voices, and powerful arias from Rosen, reminiscent at times of Italian bouffes. The orchestra was also of high quality. Behind the minimalist direction of conductor Jonathan Cohen, who was often busy on the harpsichord, the musicians’ hard work and rigour were evident. With a smaller orchestra than we are used to hearing at the Maison Symphonique, we may regret the rather low volume, which evokes the atmosphere of a salon of the period, but which is ill-suited to the hall. As for the score, it is typical of Vivaldi. The structure of his melodies is clearly recognizable, as are a few borrowings from his earlier compositions. The references to the French music of the period, notably in the French overture, are also noteworthy.
Les Violons’ forthcoming season augurs well. We hope to find them in a more intimate and suitable setting for their next concert, but we can only congratulate the ensemble on a superb performance!