The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s performance of Handel’s Messiah offers much for lovers of this famous oratorio and for `novices’.
As I fell into the `novice’ category the performance, at Melbourne’s Recital Centre, resulted in a number of firsts for me.
It was the first time I had seen a full performance of the Messiah and never before have I seen all members of the orchestra, choir and the soloists perform barefoot!
It was also unusual to see the orchestra at the back of the stage while the choir and soloists took centre stage.
What was familiar was the quality of the music produced by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, the wonderful choral performance from the Brandenburg Choir and guest soloists and the enthusiasm of the Brandenburg’s artistic director and conductor, Paul Dyer.
Having not seen the Messiah I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately one of my companions had and thus I discovered this performance was like no other.
Usually, it seems, the Messiah is performed with formal choirs of varying sizes and soloists sitting and standing for their required solos. The ABO’s performance was far more theatrical thanks to the work of Dyer and staging director Constantine Costi.
Everyone was barefoot. The choir and soloists frequently moved on and off and all around the stage and were arranged in various configurations. All had a role to play even when they weren’t singing.
All costumes were eye-catching. Female choir members were dressed in floaty white dresses with black belts while the men wore white shirts accented with black seams and black trousers. To sing the Hallelujah Chorus the choir donned red scarves.
The three male soloists – American tenor Kyle Bielfield, Greek countertenor Nicholas Spanos and Australian bass David Greco – all featured distinctive tops while soprano soloist Lucía Martín-Cartón wore several stunning gowns. The clever use of lighting added to the dramatic feel of the production.
Another change was the recasting of the original three-part structure into four scenes based on four Baroque paintings – Darkness to Light, The Dream, Shame and Mourning and Ecstatic Light.
What didn’t change was the music. Judging by the standing ovation at the end of the concert both fans of the Messiah, and those new to the full production, loved the performance.
Being a fan of choral works I especially enjoyed the choir’s performance. Its presentation of Hallelujah Chorus was especially spine tingling. According to my more experienced musical companions the performances of the four soloists were outstanding.
That’s the joy of this production. For those such as myself who are new to the Messiah there’s plenty of colour and movement as well as the wonderful music. For Messiah `lovers’ there’s the chance to hear an old favourite presented in a new passionate and extremely enthusiastic way.
Performances of the ABO’s the Messiah are being held at Sydney’s City Recital Centre from March 1 to 4. Visit the ABO website for more information and tickets.
*Photo credit: Steven Godbee
Jenny Burns attended the opening night of the Messiah at the Melbourne Recital Centre as a guest of the ABO.
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