Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Standing ovation for 'Messiah'

What is it I wonder, that makes people sit for two and a-half hours, listening so intently to Handel's most famous oratorio Messiah, written in just three weeks in 1741.

"Christmas just wouldn't be the same without attending a performance of Messiah," one patron told me.
City of Dunedin Choir and Southern Sinfonia shifted their two-yearly performance of Messiah to the Regent Theatre this year, and the very well-filled venue created a different view and atmosphere, but the familiar choruses and arias certainly rang out loud and true last evening, as Christ's life on earth was outlined in music, and the final Amens were followed by tumultuous applause and standing ovation.

David Burchell conducted magnificently from the harpsichord, with a wise choice of tempi. The 29-member baroque orchestra excelled in their response. The choir's performance, with several choruses from memory, was very impressive and disciplined, despite a little under-weight in the tenor section.

Strong soprano tone reached their pinnacle in the Hallelujah Chorus, and exciting strength and verve from all sections was accorded the big choruses such as Lift Up Your Head.

The three choruses in the "Agony of the Cross" section were delivered with clarity and particularly fine nuance.
Soprano Anna Leese, now well entrenched in a successful international career, was home to perform. The voice is noticeably maturing and rich and all her arias were exquisite with the finest legato tone. Come Unto Him was stunningly performed - so liquid and pure through subtly embellished phrases.

Mezzo Wendy Doyle (Wellington) was successful in a convincing delivery from a particularly low timbre register, and young tenor Cameron Barclay (Auckland) brought clear diction and sincerity to his solos.
Bass Chalium Poppy (Tauranga) performed with confidence and strength although was not always technically secure.

By Elizabeth Bouman, Otago Daily Times 14 December 2011

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