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Handel’s Messiah

15 December 2023 @ 7:30 pm

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” Beginning with those simple words, one of the best-loved musical works continues to inspire, year over year. With the Victoria Symphony led by Associate Conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia and featuring four leading Canadian soloists as well as the Victoria Philharmonic Choir, Handel’s sublime seasonal masterpiece Messiah delivers dramatic choruses and sublime solos. Hallelujah!

Concert underwritten by Penelope & Jim Kingham
Andrew Haji’s performance underwritten by Tom & Terri Siemens


Giuseppe Pietraroia, conductor

Giuseppe Pietraroia is Associate Conductor for both the Victoria Symphony and Pacific Opera. As a guest conductor he has been engaged by l’Orchestre Métropolitain, Orchestra London, Vancouver Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, Hamilton Philharmonic, Okanagan Symphony, Regina Symphony, Kingston Symphony and Thunder Bay Symphony.

His extensive opera engagements with Pacific Opera include productions of Il barbiere di Siviglia, La traviata, La bohème, Lucia di Lammermoor, Norma, Rigoletto, Manon Lescaut, Madama Butterfly, La Cenerentola, Tosca, and Let’s Make an Opera/The Little Sweep. In addition, he has conducted productions for l’Opéra de Montréal, l’Opéra de Québec, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Edmonton Opera, Opera New Brunswick, Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Program, and l’Institut Canadien d’Art Vocal.

With Victoria Choral Society, where he was Music Director for seven seasons, Maestro Pietraroia conducted performances of Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Mass in C minor with the Victoria Symphony, a choreographed production of Orff’s Carmina Burana in collaboration with Ballet Victoria, Dvořák’s Stabat Mater, David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus, and the Duruflé and Fauré Requiems.

Maestro Pietraroia has recorded a cd with soprano Marie-Josée Lord and l’Orchestre Métropolitain for the ATMA label, which won a Felix award granted by l’ADISQ and was also nominated for a JUNO award.

Giuseppe Pietraroia is the recipient of the George and Jane Heffelfinger Pacific Opera Victoria Artist of the Year Award and the Canada Council’s Jean-Marie Beaudet Award in Orchestral Conducting.


Mireille Asselin, soprano

A singer deemed “a treasure” by the Toronto Star, Canadian soprano Mireille Asselin enjoys a diverse, international career spanning concert, opera and recital work. To date, Mireille has sung five seasons at the Metropolitan Opera, where she made waves by jumping in as Adele for the opening night of Die Fledermaus under the baton of James Levine, giving a performance that critics raved “stole the show”, hailing it as one of New York’s “most enchanting” of the season.

In the 2022-23 season Ms. Asselin will perform as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro with the Canadian Opera Company, Belinda in Dido and Aeneas with Opera Atelier, and star in a staged version of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with Edmonton Opera. She will also make her debut with the National Arts Centre Orchestra singing Messiah and return to the NAC in the spring for a performance of Don Giovanni in her signature role as Zerlina. In addition, she will tour a variety of programmes with the Mirror Visions Ensemble, giving both concerts and masterclasses across North America.

In recent years, Ms. Asselin has made debuts with the Champs-Elysées Theater in Paris and the UK’s Garsington Opera (ZerlinaDon Giovanni), Vancouver Opera (Amore, Orfeo ed Euridice), the Milwaukee and Rhode Island Symphony Orchestras (Handel’s Messiah), the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris (Mozart’s Requiem) and with Toronto Summer Music and the Rockport Chamber Music Festivals. She also returned to Carnegie Hall in NYC (Bach’s Christmas Oratorio), to Opera Atelier in Toronto (ZerlinaDon Giovanni), and to Re:Naissance Opera in Vancouver (Rivers Of Grief). Additionally, Ms. Asselin toured extensively with the Mirror Visions Ensemble, performing recitals across North America and Europe.

When the pandemic shuttered stages around the globe, she appeared on several filmed releases by Opera Atelier (Something Rich and Strange & Angel), and Soundstreams Theatre (Garden of Vanished Pleasures), created and sang Our Song d’Hiver with Tapestry Opera, and was seen on streams done by Boston Early Music Festival (Orfeo & La descente D’orphée), the Mirror Visions Ensemble (Midnight Magic), and Thirteen Strings (Dies Natalis), among others.

In her five seasons at the Met, Ms. Asselin performed Adele in Die Fledermaus and Poussette in Manon, and covered Valencienne in The Merry Widow, Jemmy in Guillaume Tell and Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia. As a respected interpreter of early music, Ms. Asselin appears regularly with period groups such as the Boston Early Music Festival and Opera Atelier, where her most recent roles have included Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Créuse (Médée), Celia (Lucio Silla), Morgana (Alcina), Galatea (Acis and Galatea), Minerva (Ulisse), and La Musica/Euridice (Orfeo). She made her European opera debut as Princesse Andromède (Persée) at Versailles in 2014, sang the title role in Handel’s Berenice at the 2016 Göttingen International Handel Festival in Germany, and worked at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, covering the title role in Ricciardo e Zoraide.

As a member of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, she performed Adele in Die Fledermaus, Servilia in La clemenza di Tito, and the title role in Handel’s Semele (studio performance). Her operatic credits elsewhere include Eurydice (Glück/Berlioz Orphée), Despina (Così fan tutte), Thérèse (Les mamelles de Tirèsias), Nannetta (Falstaff), Musetta (La bohème), the title role in Stravinsky’s Rossignol, Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), and Soeur Constance (Dialogues des Carmélites).

Ms. Asselin is an accomplished concert singer and recitalist and has appeared with many of North America’s major orchestras and festivals including the Minnesota Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Calgary and Edmonton Symphony Orchestras, Les Violons du Roy,  Festival de Lanaudière, the Ottawa Chamberfest and the Music & Beyond Festival. She is an acknowledged champion of contemporary music and has done a number of premieres and workshops of new compositions, in addition to participating in the ground-breaking development of VR techniques for opera by originating the role of Eurydice in ORPHEUS VR with Re:Naissance Opera. In April 2011, she made her Carnegie Hall debut singing Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and returned to Carnegie in January of 2012 to give a recital in Marilyn Horne’s The Song Continues series. She is an avid recitalist and is a core member of The Mirror Visions Ensemble, a vocal chamber music collective.

Her discography includes two albums of Canadian repertoire – Ash Roses of music by composer Derek Holman on the Centrediscs label, and Inspired by Canada – Notre Pays with Marquis Classics, the latter being a solo album of Canadian popular and traditional songs recorded alongside the legendary Amici Chamber Ensemble. She also appears on the CORO label for Handel and Haydn Society’s recording of Haydn’s Harmoniemesse.  In addition, she has done film work, starring as Pamina in the feature film Magic Flute Diaries at the age of 21.

Ms. Asselin obtained her Master of Music from Yale University’s prestigious Opera Program in 2010 and was a member of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio (2011-2013).  Prior to her studies at Yale, she completed a Bachelor of Music at the Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto (2007). She was a Filene Artist with Wolf Trap Opera (2013 & 2014) and trained as a young artist with the Glimmerglass Festival (2012), Opera NUOVA (2008) and Centro Studi Lirica (2005). She studied art song at Toronto Summer Music (2011), Handel oratorio at the Britten-Pears Programme (2008 & 2010), baroque music at the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute (2007) and contemporary vocal music with Queen of Puddings Summer Music Theatre (2007). Ms. Asselin was born in Ottawa, Canada, and is both an American and Canadian citizen.


Simona Genga, alto

Italian-Canadian mezzo-soprano Simona Genga possesses an “exceptional and rare voice” known for its “vocal plushness, amplitude and range” (Ludwig van Toronto/Opera Canada).

Recent engagements for Simona include the title role in Carmen for Saskatoon Opera, the premiere of Ian Cusson’s Fantasma with the Canadian Opera Company, Handel’s Messiah with the Peterborough Singers, Olga in Eugene Onegin for Highlands Opera Studio, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Brott Music Festival, and opera excerpts in concert with the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

“Showing a vocal and theatrical maturity that belies her age” (The Edmonton Journal), Simona first experienced the deep impact of opera while singing Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking with the Opera NUOVA in 2015. She subsequently joined Canadian Opera Company’s prestigious Ensemble Studio after winning both First Prize and Audience Choice Awards at their 2017 Centre Stage Competition. While with the Ensemble Studio, she sang Berta in Il barbiere di Siviglia under the baton of Speranza Scappucci, and Gertrude in the Opera for Young Audiences performances of Hansel and Gretel.

In recent seasons, Simona was Second Maid in COC’s Elektra and premiered the role of Cindy in their Wow Factor: A Cinderella Story. As a Gerdine Young Artist at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, she sang Annina in Patricia Racette’s production of La traviata and covered the role of Mother Chen in the premiere of Huang Ro’s An American Soldier.

Equally at home in recital, Simona has sung in Elora Festival’s Shaftsbury Salon Series, won the 2017 Norcop Song Recital Prize, and has held fellowships with the Ravinia Steans Music Institute, The Chautauqua Institute, Highlands Opera Studio, and the Franz Schubert Institut in Baden bei Wein. In summer 2021, she joined Toronto Summer Music for ‘Midsummer Melodies’, an evening of art song curated by Adrianne Pieczonka with pianist Steven Philcox.

Simona was a 2021 finalist for the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto’s Career Development Award and is a recipient of a 2019 Sullivan Foundation Career Development Grant. She has been recognized as one of CBC’s “30 hot Canadian Classical Musicians under 30” and received career grants from the Hnatyshyn Foundation, the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation, and multiple Ruby Mercer Awards. She won third prize in the 2019 Christina and Louis Quilico Competition, as well as the 2018 Barbara and Stanley Richman Award for demonstrating “exceptional potential for a significant career” at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.


Andrew Haji, tenor

Canadian tenor Andrew Haji has become one of the most sought-after voices on both the operatic and concert stages. Winner of the Grand Prix at the 50th International Vocal Competition in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and the Montreal International Music Competition’s Oratorio Prize, Haji recently debuted with Calgary Opera as Pollione in Norma and performed Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall.

The Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern winner was heard as Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore for the Canadian Opera Company, Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Opéra de Québec, Alfredo in La traviata for Vancouver Opera, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for the Toronto Symphony, and Bach’s Matthäus Passion with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. The 20/21 season also saw Andrew engage in digital productions, include starring as Satyavan in Against the Grain’s acclaimed stream of Holst’s Sāvitri.
Recent and upcoming engagements includes La Traviata for Calgary Opera, La bohéme for Edmonton Opera, returning to Orchestra of St. Luke’s for the Mozart Requiem, and Handel’s Messiah with both the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Houston Symphony.

He is a graduate of the COC Ensemble Studio, during which he appeared in leading roles including Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Ferrando in Così fan tutte. This season will see Andrew return to the COC for their digital Gianni Schicchi and Mozart’s Requiem in a co-production with Against the Grain Theatre.


Stephen Hegedus, baritone

Hailed by the Ottawa Citizen as a singer possessing “…an instrument of rare beauty, majestic and commanding from the bottom of his range to the top,” Stephen Hegedus is that rarest of bass-baritones, totally at home in the works of Puccini and Weill as well as those of Bach and Mozart. Especially appreciated for his performance in Messiah, he has been heard in Handel’s masterpiece with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra,  l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Seattle Symphony, Houston Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Edmonton Symphony, the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Naples Philharmonic, and Victoria Symphony.

Hegedus’ recent and upcoming engagements are highlighted by Messiah with the Toronto Symphony, Bach’s B Minor Mass with the Vancouver Bach Choir, and appearances with Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières in La bohème and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

His 2019/20 season included appearances with Opera Atelier as Leporello in Don Giovanni, and the regrettably cancelled production of Handel’s Resurrezione. He sang the role of Rocco in Beethoven’s Leonore for Opera Lafayette in Washington D.C. and New York City, recently released on DVD. Concert highlights included Messiah with the Winnipeg and Okanagan Symphonies, Rossini’s Stabat Mater with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Bach’s Lutheran Masses for Montreal’s Choeur St. Laurent along with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for the Regina Symphony Orchestra, the latter two projects postponed due to the pandemic.

The role of Leporello in Don Giovanni was a feature of Hegedus’ schedule in 2018-2019, when he performed it at Manitoba Opera. In Edmonton he was heard in Le comte Ory by Rossini, in Carmen as Zuniga for l’Opéra de Montréal, as well as Messiah for the Edmonton Symphony. He appeared for I Musici de Montréal in Bach’s Magnificat, with the Vancouver Chamber Choir and Edmonton Symphony for Messiah and performed Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

Fluent in French, English and Hungarian, Stephen Hegedus’s 2017/18 season included Messiah with Nezet-Seguin and l’Orchestre Métropolitain, Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore for Vancouver Opera, the Count in Le nozze di Figaro and Neptune/ Time in Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses, both for Opera Atelier, Colline in La bohème for Pacific Opera Victoria and Messiah with the Thunder Bay and Regina symphonies.

Hegedus’s 2016/17 season featured Mozart’s Requiem for the Seattle Symphony, Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust with the Grant Park Festival in Chicago, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for the Florida Orchestra, Bach’s Weihnachts-Oratorium for I Musici de Montréal and Masetto in Don Giovanni for Opera de Montréal. As well, he was featured in Weill’s Sieben Todsünden for the Toronto Symphony, Alidoro in La Cenerentola for Edmonton Opera, Mozart’s Requiem for Mercury Baroque in Houston and Créon in Medée for Opera Atelier in Toronto and Versailles.

A prize winner at the Lyndon Woodside Oratorio Competition, hosted by the Oratorio Society of New York, his extensive concert experience includes appearances with the Vancouver Symphony (Mozart’s Requiem), Winnipeg Symphony (Haydn’s Creation), the Grant Park Festival (Dvorak’s The Spectre’s Bride, Brahms’ Requiem), l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (Bernstein’s A Quiet Place), the Victoria Symphony (Bach’s Weihnachts-Oratorium), l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec (Bach’s Magnificat and Bruckner’s Te Deum), and the Aldeburgh Festival (Bach’s B Minor Mass). Operatic roles include the title role in Le nozze di Figaro, Leporello and Masetto (Don Giovanni), Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Albert (Werther), Nick Shadow (The Rake’s Progress), Collatinus (The Rape of Lucretia), Talbot (Maria Stuarda), Sprecher (Die Zauberflöte) and Angelotti (Tosca). He has been engaged by the Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Canadian Opera Company, l’Opéra de Montréal, and Against the Grain Theatre. Further credits include Lully’s Armide with Opera Atelier, Opera Columbus and at Versailles, St. Matthew Passion with the Vancouver Bach Choir, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Pacific Opera Victoria, and Field Marshall Haig in the premiere of Estacio’s Ours, at Opera on the Avalon. A finalist at Operalia, Stephen made his Carnegie Hall debut singing Bach’s Mass In B-Minor with the Oratorio Society of New York and later returned for Handel’s Messiah.


Peter Butterfield, concert master

Growing up in Victoria, Peter first sang in a choir at St. Mary’s Church in Oak Bay with the late and wonderful Charlie Palmer, his first mentor of music. He later studied Economics and Music at McGill University in Montreal and made his professional debut with the Montreal Symphony as the tenor soloist in Handel’s Messiah.

Peter moved to Europe in 1987 and continued his vocal studies and career building in Manchester, Florence and London. His professional solo experience is diverse, and his choral experience includes membership in the Tudor Singers (Montreal), Winchester Cathedral Choir (Winchester, UK), Bayreuth Festival Chorus (Germany), and the Monteverdi Choir (London) conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner. As a soloist, Peter has taken part in concerts and festivals throughout Europe and in Korea, the United States and Japan. In Canada, he has been a featured soloist with the Vancouver Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, Vancouver Opera, the Victoria Symphony and Tafelmusik, among others.

Peter began conducting alongside his singing in 1995. Since moving back to Canada from Europe in 2001, he has conducted, performed and led choral retreats and workshops on the West Coast. He was Music Director at St. Helen’s Anglican Church in Vancouver from 2002-2012; he founded and directed VancouverVoices and VancouverVoicesYouth (2003-2012) and was appointed Music Director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir in 2009. Highlights with these two choirs include performances of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and Mass in B Minor.

Peter teaches music at St. Michaels University School. His daughter Rosanna is a freelance cellist in Washington, DC and his son Felix is in his third year at UVic.


Part I
Comfort ye (Tenor)
Ev’ry valley (Tenor)
And the glory of the Lord (Chorus)
Thus saith the Lord (Bass)
But who may abide (Alto)
And He shall purify (Chorus)
Behold, a virgin shall conceive (Alto)
O thou that tellest (Alto/Chorus)
For behold, darkness (Bass)
The people that walked in darkness (Bass)
For unto us a child is born (Chorus)
Pifa (1st 11 measures only)
There were shepherds (Soprano)
And lo, the angel of the Lord (Soprano)
And the angel said unto them (Soprano)
And suddenly there was with the angel (Soprano)
Glory to God (Chorus)
Rejoice greatly (Soprano)
Then shall the eyes of the blind (Alto)
He shall feed his flock (Alto/Soprano)
His yoke is easy (Chorus)


Part II
Behold the Lamb of God (Chorus)
He was despised (Alto) (After B section – m.67, DS to m. 9/letter A)
Surely He hath borne our griefs (Chorus)
And with His stripes (Chorus)
All we like sheep (Chorus)
All they that see him (Tenor)
He trusted in God (Chorus)
Thy rebuke hath broken His heart (Tenor)
Behold and see (Tenor)
Lift up your heads (Chorus)
How beautiful are the feet (Soprano)
Why do the nations (Bass)
Let us break their bonds (Chorus)
He that dwelleth in heaven (Tenor)
Thou shalt break them (Tenor)
Hallelujah (Chorus)                                                      

Part III
I know that my Redeemer liveth (Soprano)
Since by man came death (Chorus)
Behold, I tell you a mystery (Bass)
The trumpet shall sound (Bass) (with DC)
Worthy is the Lamb (Chorus)
Amen (Chorus)

Messiah at the Foundling Hospital
BBC Documentary (2014)



15 December 2023
starts at 7:30 pm


Victoria Symphony


Farquhar at UVic
University Farquhar Auditorium, Ring Road
Victoria, BC V8P 5C2 Canada
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