Christopher’s comments about the work being a hybrid of classical and baroque styles gave me a framework for listening and digesting the work. He described the work as an amalgam of Handelian choral singing and late classical music. The architecture of the piece could be heard clearly: the orchestral part, with its resounding timpani and warm strings provided the foundation, the choral writing, layered, imitative and sometimes canonic gave the work depth. The recitatives and arias were the decoration on this structure revealing the composer’s artistically musical interpretation of the text. The duets and trios brought the structure closer to the heavens with their soaring, virtuosic joy.
Bass Alex Helsabeck sang Raphael with clarity and warm, focused sound. Each phrase was planned and executed with gentle phrasing where the text required it. Helsabeck’s voice rich and full and he handles ornamented passages with grace, singing each note perfectly in pitch. In spite of the soloist’s unfortunate placement behind the orchestra, his voice was easily heard.
Joyous was tenor Dana Wilson (as Uriel) in his singing and presentation. Like Helsabeck, he projected out over the orchestra from the back with his sweet ringing tenor. Wilson brings the athleticism of his career as baseball umpire to his performance.
Melanie Sarakatsannis, soprano, provided the “icing on the cake” in the performance as Gabriel. She sang some wonderfully ornate passages with panache and a clear bright tone, projecting confidently. Her voice was well balanced with the other soloists in the duets and trios.
The real stars were the choristers. Haydn’s multi-layered piece provides many challenges in its imitative and canonic sections. Christopher has helped them grow into a group with a lush, unified quality. Each one of the singers is dedicated, and sings from a place of joy. That is exactly what they brought to the audience, too.