OPERA NEWS - Die Schöpfung
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Die Schöpfung

Masaaki Suzuki & Julliard415, Yale Baroque Ensemble & Yale Schola Cantorum | St. Bartholomew's Church

Free musical events of high quality are always welcome in high-priced New York City. Die Schöpfung at St. Bartholomew's Church on the Upper East Side drew a large and appreciative crowd on April 30. Despite less than inviting seating, the church is a fine place to hear music, with acoustics that are less hyper-resonant than those of some similar venues. Haydn's magnificent oratorio — too little known by operagoers, though to me it seems the missing link between Mozartean Singspiel and the early Romanticism of Fidelio and Weber's output — employed the forces of Yale's Schola Cantorum and Baroque Ensemble, plus Juilliard's new period band Julliard415. The esteemed conductor Masaaki Suzuki had prepared the performances and led one the night before in New Haven. Musical standards were high and stylistically informed, if sometimes a trace anonymous; embellishment was kept to a minimum. Recitatives used harpsichord or cello underpinning; the cellos were among the evening's best-performing players. (The same cannot be said of the trumpets and horns, alas.) The choral singing was fluent and fresh throughout.

One question was why we were hearing Die Schöpfung rather than The Creation — especially with anglophone soloists and audience members.  Whatever its occasional awkwardnesses in prosody, the composer preferred that the English text be used in such circumstances; and the sources in Genesis, Psalms and Paradise Lost still have resonance for many listeners (and performers). The soloists' German was generally well mastered and clearly pronounced (with occasional mystery vowels or consonants, perhaps caused by nerves). Yet it didn't carry much emotional impact, save for the fine lyric soprano Jessica Petrus's varied caresses of the word "Liebe" in her sparkling traversal of "Auf starkem Fittiche."

All four soloists study at Yale with renowned American Bach tenor James Taylor. They offered clean, polished vocalism in commendable voices that are still finding their full tonal compasses. The well-schooled, sonorous bass John Taylor Ward, who took on Adam as well as his announced role of Raphael, also has some tenorial resonance that is useful in tapering recits. Tenor Stephen Soph's Uriel projected bright clarity. Canadian soprano Megan Chartrand, as Eve, brought forth some soaring, diamantine high notes that bloomed in the church's vast spaces, but Petrus's joyous Gabriel showed a technique more fully equalized among registers. The Yale–Juilliard forces supplied a serious yet enjoyable evening. spacer 


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