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17.12.04

Hallelujah, It's Over!

Handel's Messiah around this time of the year is a tradition—and fairly unavoidable. Many Washingtonians tried, though, and the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall was more than half empty. I wish I could say that they missed out on something special: alas, they did not. The NSO and the Washington Master Chorale, under the baton of the youthful Paul Goodwin, delivered a pleasant performance, but nothing extraordinary or somehow remarkable.

The Orchestra played, understandably perhaps, on autopilot with fairly pedestrian results. The male batch of singers, countertenor Brian Asawa, tenor Benjamin Butterfield, and baritone George Mosley were adequate, too, but not much more. The 71 throat-strong choir performed in a way that deserved neither lavish praise nor negative criticism. (That is, of course, if you don't consider withholding praise a negative criticism in the first place.)

Soprano Jenniver Casey Cabot (“The Arnold and Marie Schwartz endowed Soloist”—that cumbersome title would have been funnier if the object of such support had been the countertenor) had a starling voice and hit all the notes right. Paul Goodwin's obvious enthusiasm for the music (he may have been the only one) did not jump over to anyone else. His precise and detailed conducting—one of the few highlights—steered everyone safely through the performance though.

Handel's Messiah being a good deal less exciting than some of his other oratorios (notably Saul and Theodora) and given how often we have heard that work, “good” and “safe” are not quite enough. And while my internal wager of who would fall asleep first, I or one of the performers, was gratuitously facetious, it might go some way in characterizing the night's impact on me. The program will be offered again today, Friday, and tomorrow, Saturday, at 8:00 pm, as well as Sunday at 1:00 pm.

Update: Tim Page's review can be read here. Kinder, more detailed, but ultimately not very different. I, too, don't mind a big Messiah - though I would not have minded a tight, taut, tart little thing, either. Just anything but a run-of-the-mill version.

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