The Messiah - A Roasted Chestnut to PerfectionThursday, November 09, 2017
|Alexander Weimann & Charles Daniels|
It is 1733 in Venice and a Mexican dressed as Motezuma with his black servant Filomeno are looking at sheet music:
But now the clerk was extolling the merits of Messiah, a very well-known oratorio.
‘No less!’ exclaimed Filomeno. That Saxon doesn’t work small.’ He opened the score. ‘Whew! This is what you call writing for the trumpet! That’ll be the day when I can play it!’ And he read and reread with admiration the aria for basso written by George Frideric to two versicles from the Epistle to the Corinthians. ‘And underneath the notes which only a top player could produce from the instrument, there are words that look like a spiritual or something:
The trumpet shall sound
And the dead shall be raised
And we shall be changed,
And we shall be changed!
The trumpet shall sound,
The trumpet shall sound.’
Concierto Barroco – Alejo Carpentier – translated by Asa Zatz
Anybody who may be a stickler for facts and dates might note a few discrepancies. For one, Mexicans call their last emperor Moctezuma and the Americans Montezuma. Motezuma is the title of Antonio Vivaldi’s opera. Handel did not write his Messiah until 1741. It just so happens that the writer of Concierto Barroco (its title in Spanish and in its English translation) was Cuban novelist and music critic Alejo Carpentier who coined the term realismo mágico. He loved to move with time at will.
My first awareness of Handel’s Messiah happened in 1979 at the gay Vancouver club, Luv-a-Fair. At the time I was working for a gay weekly called Bi-Line. When I entered the club I witnessed a dense dance floor of men dancing with their arms up in the air to a disco version of the Hallelujah Chorus.
A second more serious version of the Handel oratorio was in the sometime around 2002 when I took my young granddaughter to a dress rehearsal at the Orpheum performed by the Vancouver Symphony.
The Pacific Baroque’s version (produced by Early MusicVancouver) on December 1 and 2 at the Vancouver Playhouse will be, I believe my first of a period instrument performance. Here is more info.
I happen to know three of the singers. These are mezzo-soprano Krizstina Zsabó , tenor Charles Daniels and baritone Tyler Duncan.
I do not know soprano Yulia Van Doren but since Early Music Vancouver’s Artistic Director is former countertenor Matthew White, we all know that he has the contacts and the knowledge of the best possible singers.
But there is some backstage humour to the Messiah as this work is an indestructible chestnut.
In 2015 I had the pleasure of being invited to have a craft beer, after a performance at the Fox Cabaret with Charles Daniels and Matthew White. Over beers they compared notes on their performances of the work (it escapes me how the countertenor Matthew White knew the stuff unless he had been part of the chorus) which were funny and bordered on the unbelievably silly. I was very much entertained!
Baritone Tyler Duncan is my Facebook friend and before and after his manyMessiah performances I have seen him write stuff such as the perfect food to eat before or after. His jokes and puns almost mask the fact that this baritone has presence, a voice like few others and a diction that is only matched by that of Daniels’s.
Any tenor who loves craft beer and can act (I have seen him mimic drunkenness on stage with perfection) like Charles Daniels when combined by the lovely voice and presence of mezzo Zsabó pretty well makes this coming Messiah a sure thing. That it is directed by Alexander Weimann surely must roast this chestnut to perfection.