Event Description

Don’t miss our acclaimed annual performance of Handel’s Messiah, featuring the full Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, and this year led by our new Principal Conductor Guillermo Figueroa. Included in the lineup this year, are guest soloists Mary Wilson, soprano; Daryl Freedman, mezzo-soprano; Josh Kohl, tenor; and Joseph Beutel, bass-baritone. First performed in 1742, this musical masterpiece by George Frideric Handel has become one of the world’s most beloved musical works and a musicale rite of the holiday season. This frequently sold out performance is our official start of the holidays here at The Santa Fe Symphony. After many years of sold-out Messiah performances, we continue to offer this baroque-era oratorio on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Be sure to join us for a FREE preview talk one hour before the concerts.

Subscription packages and individual tickets are available now.

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Concert Notes

“Yesterday Mr. Handel’s new Grand Sacred Oratorio, called, The MESSIAH, was rehearsed … to a most Grand, Polite and crouded Audience; and was performed so well, that it gave universal Satisfaction to all present; and was allowed by the greatest Judges to be the finest Composition of Musick that ever was heard, and the sacred Words as properly adapted for the occasion.”

So Faulkner’s “Dublin Journal” reported on April 10, 1742. The newspaper noted that the actual premiere performance of what would become one of the most popular works in the Western classical music canon would take place on April 13, for the benefit of several charities.

In a timely request that the fashionable abandon their usual glory for the day, the “Journal” stated that the “Many Ladies and Gentlemen, who are well-wishers to this Noble and Grand Charity for which this oratorio was composed, request it as a Favour, that the Ladies who honour this Performance with their Presence would be pleased to come without Hoops, as it will greatly encrease the Charity, by making Room for more company.” On the 13th, the same paper added that “The Gentlemen are desired to come without their Swords” for the same reason. It seems that even in the Baroque period, packing the house was not an unusual practice.


Handel had come to Ireland the previous November from London, arriving on Nov. 18. With him came not only his manservant  and luggage, but a portable chamber organ. The composer had been invited by the Viceroy, the Duke of Devonshire, to give a series of concerts for charity relief, but we can be sure Handel intended to make money on the deal as well. He had a generous nature and was not exactly avaricious; but he also knew the value of his work in pounds sterling and always had an eye to the main chance.

The Dublin season was a big one. Performances took place over six months, with two series of six concerts each. In addition to the oratorios Alexander’s Feast and Esther and the serenata Hymen, audiences heard the oratorio L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed il Moderato, to texts from Milton; concertos for the organ and violin; the Ode for St. Cecilia; and the pastoral opera Acis and Galatea, among other works. The concerts were an audience and financial success: Handel told a London friend by letter that all six hundred subscription tickets had been bought up. That represented the full seating in the Musick Hall on Fishamble Street, and presumably a nice sum for him, even after paying expenses.


Messiah itself – Handel never added “The” to the title, though others did – was written in London from August 22 to Sept. 14, 1741. The libretto, drawn mainly from the King James version of the Bible, combined both Old and New Testament texts. It was cobbled together by one of the famously over-complacent men of history, the clergyman Charles Jennens – a man who had a higher opinion of his literary gifts than Handel. Nonetheless, he produced a respectable text, with some additions and edits by the composer.


Messiah deals with the Incarnation, the Passion, and the Resurrection of Christ, with many reflective arias and choruses of touching or stern beauty – including the more than evergreen “Hallelujah” chorus. Always a fast worker, Handel completed the first and third parts in six days each, the second in nine, and the instructions for the orchestral copyist in three more.

(It’s both interesting and amusing to note that his habit of borrowing themes or entire pieces from his own works, or those of other composers, was active during the Messiah creation: the rousing chorus “For Unto Us a Child is Born” was originally an Italian love duet titled “No, I will not trust you, Blind Love,” and the chorus “And With His Stripes We Are Healed” had its genesis in a keyboard fugue.

When Messiah premiered, the original orchestration was spare: strings, two trumpets, timpani and continuo. The soprano was Christina Avoglio and the female contralto Susannah Cibber, sister of composer Thomas Arne and the mistreated wife of dramatist Colley Cibber. The male countertenor, tenor and bass soloists were singers in Dublin’s two cathedrals. A second performance was given on June 3, when the ever-helpful “Journal” noted that some of the windows in the hall would be removed to help ventilate the auditorium.

Following its Dublin performances, Messiah was performed just three times in London before Handel’s death, in 1743 and twice in 1745, in part as a benefit for the Foundling Hospital. Performances from 1749 on saw an orchestra of four oboes, four bassoons, two trumpets, two horns, timpani and an expanded body of strings. The work began to attain its current reverential status with the mammoth Handel commemorations of the 1800s in both England and Germany.

Oh yes. After that fulsome praise of the rehearsal, did the performance draw a  similar response? Indeed. The writer for the “Journal” proclaimed, “Words are wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring crouded Audience. The Sublime, the Grand, and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear. It is but Justice to Mr. Handel, that the World should know, he generously gave the Money arising from this Grand Performance, to be equally shared by the Society for relieving Prisoners, the Charitable Infirmary, and Mercer’s Hospital … There were about 700 People in the Room, and the Sum collected … amounted to about 400 pounds out of which 127 pounds goes to each of the three great and Pious Charities.”

—Craig Smith

Mary Wilson Soprano

“Shining soprano Mary Wilson, a gift from the gods if I ever heard one…her singing was exquisite.” —San Francisco Classical Voice.

Soprano Mary Wilson is acknowledged as one of today’s most exciting young artists.  Cultivating a wide-ranging career singing chamber music, oratorio and operatic repertoire, her “bright soprano seems to know no terrors, wrapping itself seductively around every phrase.” (Dallas Morning News) Receiving consistent critical acclaim from coast to coast, “she proves why many in the opera world are heralding her as an emerging star. She is simply amazing, with a voice that induces goose bumps and a stage presence that is mesmerizing. She literally stole the spotlight…” (Arizona Daily Star) Read more . . .

Daryl Freedman Mezzo-soprano

Praised by Opera News for her “striking dark timbre” and “expansive, sumptuous” performances, mezzo-soprano Daryl Freedman is in her final season as a member of the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. At Washington National Opera, Freedman sang the role of Jade Boucher in Dead Man Walking and also Marcellina in the Emerging Artists performance of Le nozze di Figaro. She has also been seen at WNO as Gertrude in Hansel and Gretel, Lili’uokalani in the world premiere of Better Gods, and as Rossweisse in Francesca Zambello’s production of Der Ring des Nibelungen. Read more . . .


Josh Kohl Tenor

“…the strong, ringing, Italianate voice of the terrific Joshua Kohl as an Amleto who’s the archetypal angry young man of Italian opera.” —The Washington Post

American tenor Joshua Kohl has been praised for his “firm technique and dynamic phrasing (The Baltimore Sun) and for his “strong, ringing” tone (The Washington Post).  During the 2016-2017 season, this powerful and engaging artist was heard as Váňa Kudrjaš in Káťa Kabanová with Seattle Opera, as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto with Baltimore Concert Opera, as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with First Coast Opera, and as Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance with both Knoxville Opera and Fargo-Moorhead Opera. Concert performances include two engagements with the South Dakota Symphony: Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Mass in B minor. In August, he won Second Prize in Maryland Lyric Opera’s inaugural Vocal Competition. Read more . . .

Joseph Beutel Bass-Baritone

“An imposing bass-baritone,” as reviewed by Opera News, Joseph Beutel is often praised for his “deep well-rounded tone” and overall richness of voice and versatility on stage. He portrayed the roles of the Duke and Judge in Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès at Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee, where he “burned up the stage . . . singing with gorgeous tone in a huge vocal range and with an actor’s command of language.” Other recent engagements have included Martinů’s Comedy on the Bridge and Alexandre Bis with Gotham Chamber Opera, Lamoral in The Santa Fe Opera’s production of Arabella, Der Kaiser von Atlantis with Opera Moderne in Vienna, Nourabad in Les pêcheurs de perles with Baltimore Concert Opera and Opera Delaware, and the high priest of Baal in Nabucco with Opera Naples. He originated the role of the British Major in the Pulitzer Prize winning opera Silent Night by Kevin Puts, premiered at Minnesota Opera. Beutel was the winner of a Sullivan Foundation Career Development Award in 2011.
Read more . . .

& Musicians

Principal Conductor

Guillermo Figueroa


Mary Wilson


Daryl Freedman


Joshua Kohl


Joseph Beutel


The Santa Fe Symphony Chorus

Meet The Composers