Don’t miss our acclaimed annual performance of Handel’s Messiah, featuring the full Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus led by Principal Conductor Guillermo Figueroa. Included in the lineup this year, are guest soloists Hailey Clark, soprano; Daryl Freedman, mezzo-soprano; John Tiranno, 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. After many years of sold-out Messiah performances, we continue to offer this baroque-era oratorio on Saturday and Sunday.
Be sure to join us for a FREE preview talk one hour before the concerts.
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“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.”
Hailed by OPERA NEWS for her “warm” and “effortless” soprano and widely recognized for her dynamic interpretations, American lyric soprano Hailey Clark is quickly making her mark in both Europe and North America. She is the winner of the Österreichischer Musiktheaterpreis (Austrian Music Theater Prize in Opera) in the category of ‘Best Female Leading Role’ for her performance as Alma Beers in Brokeback Mountain (2016) at the Salzburger Landestheater.
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 . . .
Tenor John Tiranno has had his singing called “ardent and mellifluous” by The New York Times. Notable past performances include Berlioz’s Requiem (La Jolla Symphony & Chorus), Richard Strauss’ Deutsche Motette (Musica Sacra), Saint-Saëns Requiem (Festival Internazionale di Musica e Arte Sacra), Mozart’s Missa in C (at Auditório Ibirapuera in São Paolo, Brazil), creating the role Trouble in Gisle Kverndokk’s Max and Moritz (New York Opera Society), Bach’s B minor Mass and the U.S. premiere of Juraj Filas’ Oratio Spei – Requiem (Sacred Music in a Sacred Space), Handel’s Messiah (Dayton Philharmonic), Paul Moravec’s The Blizzard Voices (Oratorio Society of New York), and recitals at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Jedda, Saudi Arabia.
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. Read more …