(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Handel’s oratorio Messiah was performed a little over a week ago by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, presumably to celebrate Christmas.
For Handel the Messiah is not just a liturgical or mythological figure. He focuses also on the human tragedy of an idealist who was “despised and rejected” by his contemporaries because of his ethical ideas, for which he had to pay with his life.
Conductor Frederic Chaslin sensitively highlighted these emotional and dramatic aspects of the work’s hero.
The performance’s surprise was the relatively unknown young soprano Daniela Skorka.
The sheer beauty of her bright, clear voice, reaching even the highest notes effortlessly, and the liveliness and freshness of her identification with the text made her arias “Rejoice greatly” and “I know that my redeemer liveth” a pure joy.
The alto role was assigned, for some strange reason, to a counter-tenor – Alon Harari. Though displaying an extremely appealing voice, arias such as “He was despised” require the warmth of a female alto that can not be expected of a counter- tenor. Tenor Eitan Drori, in his arioso “Behold and see if there be any sorrow” admirably captured the piece’s emotional mood. In the aria “The trumpet shall sound,” baritone Oded Reich skilfully made his voice sound like a trumpet, while the accompanying trumpet sounded like a human voice.
The Israel Kibbutz Choir and the Jerusalem Academy Choir produced a rich, full sound, perfectly balanced and coordinated, like a single choir. The “Hallelujah,” Handel’s unrivaled choral masterpiece, sounded as though it might make the walls come tumbling down.
Conducted by Chaslin, the orchestra sounded uncommonly enthusiastic, conveying the work’s emotional and dramatic content persuasively and intensely.
To sum up, it was an inspired performance.