The Santa Fe Symphony and its chorus will perform their annual version of “The Messiah” at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Nov. 18-19.
The soloists include Mary Wilson, soprano; Daryl Freedman, mezzo-soprano; Joshua Kohl, tenor and Joseph Beutel, bass-baritone.
The composer’s choral masterwork has sustained both professional and lay orchestras ever since it was written nearly 300 years ago.
In the 2014-2015 season alone, 13 out of the 22 largest American orchestras performed the massive work 38 times, according to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra website.
“All orchestras and all lay orchestras probably would not exist if it were not for ‘The Messiah’ and ‘The Nutcracker,'” Santa Fe symphony conductor Guillermo Figueroa said.
Handel wrote “The Messiah” during an era of operas, instrumentals, concertos and arias.
“In the oratorio, his great achievement was to combine elements of all of these into a new form,” Figueroa said.
At the time, critics called it “the greatest entertainment written by Mr. Handel.”
“It was intended to be performed in theaters,” Figueroa added. “It was never intended to be performed in a church.”
Figueroa aims to present this classic as close to Handel’s original Baroque intentions as possible. But that can be challenging.
“He didn’t put in any dynamics,” Figueroa said. “You have to invent them. There are conventions people at the time were expected to follow. It’s like jazz; you don’t tell a jazz player how loud or how soft to play; they make it up.”
“The Messiah” was first performed in Dublin in 1742. At the time, mid-18th century England was steeped in the restrictive and solemn piety of traditional liturgy. In recognition of this, Handel advertised the first performance as “A Sacred Oratorio” rather than openly publicize his dramatic setting of the story of Christ. The Dublin Journal reported a crowd of at least 700. Such was the excitement that the newspaper admonished women to “come without hoops” and men to “come without swords” so that more people could be crammed in.