Last night, Hill Auditorium hosted the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal with singer Joyce DiDonato. The concert started out with the overture to Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito. They performed this work with a smaller orchestra that only took up about half the stage. The instrumentation consisted of strings, a few winds, a couple trumpets, and timpani. Once Ms. DiDonato joined the orchestra, the trumpets and timpanist left and a clarinetist made their way to the front of the stage to be featured alongside her. I had heard of Ms. DiDonato many times, but I had never actually heard her sing live. She was incredible. Her voice sounded exactly like you would expect an opera singer’s to sound. This is likely because she has set a standard in singing that others strive to match. The interplay between her and the clarinetist was fascinating the watch as they alternated similar phrases. She was able to perfectly match the articulation and timbre of the clarinet using just her voice. In addition, she mimicked the other winds flawlessly, especially in the first aria. There was a moment where she had a run of doubled notes that the flute played at a different time where she embodied the character of a flautist to a T. As an encore, she joined the orchestra for a rendition of “Voi che sapete” from The Marriage of Figaro. She used an iPad for the arias from La Clemenza, but she had this one memorized. It was clear she had performed it many times. She really took control of the stage by incorporating some acting into her performance and having some fun with Maestro Nézet-Séguin and the assistant principal first violinist. Overall, the first half of the concert was great, especially for those who are big fans of opera. On the second half, the orchestra played Anton Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony. Bruckner’s music is best known for it’s epic, massive moments and this symphony had plenty of them. The size of the orchestra seemingly doubled between the first and second halves with a full brass section, a timpanist, and about half a string section joining the chamber orchestra from the first half. I thought the orchestra performed the piece very well, overall. There were some questionable moments where the horns might have had an off night or the timpani might have been too loud for my liking, but mistakes happen in performances and everyone has their own opinion as to what sounds best. The piece seemed to follow a structure of peaks and valleys which, honestly, gets pretty old in a symphony that’s over an hour long. We’d hear a couple minutes of really loud, awesome music, followed by some softer, prettier stuff. I feel like most great symphonies have a few moments that are really special and people immediately think of them when they think of that symphony. This one had so many big moments that I can’t remember any of them because, even though they were awesome when I heard them, they all blended together. None of this is the fault of the orchestra, of course. They played it in a very convincing manner and Maestro Nézet-Séguin commanded the podium with an incredible energy. They closed the night with a really cool encore by Violet Archer, a composer I had never heard of. I really enjoyed the piece and was grateful that Maestro Nézet-Séguin exposed the audience to it. I have seen him perform twice at Hill now, and he has been fantastic both times. I will surely be going back if I see his name on the UMS schedule again next year!