CSO Embraces Holiday Tradition with “Messiah”
Orchestras and choirs the world over traditionally perform George Frideric Handel’s timeless Messiah each year during the holiday season. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra joins in that tradition on December 19 at 3 p.m. at Music Hall. Robert Porco conducts the CSO in the entirety of this joyful, moving work that remains as relevant and inspiring now as it was when it debuted in 1742. This beloved masterpiece includes the famous “Hallelujah” chorus. Soloists Elisabeth Marshall, soprano, Daniel Anderson, tenor, and Mark Diamond, bass, make their CSO debuts. Mezzo Soprano Laura Thoreson returns after her spectacular November debut as part of the “Mozart Festival: Amadeus!” program. The beloved May Festival Chamber Choir, a subset of the May Festival Chorus, also joins the CSO again for what is sure to be another stunning performance.
“Handel’s Messiah is perhaps the most popular piece in the world, really,” said conductor Robert Porco. One reason for this, from a musician’s standpoint, is that it’s a fantastic piece…Almost a perfect piece in its marriage of text and music. The other [reason] is in its basic Christian themes. It deals with various aspects of Christianity. From the birth, which is not glossed over but it’s certainly not dwelt upon, right on through the sacrifice of Christ and then redemption. We do it at Christmas in this country, but I’m not sure that Handel ever did it at Christmastime or intended it to be a Christmas piece or really a religious piece. It has, in this country and other places, become a Christmas piece and it’s perfectly alright. It works any time of the year, but it’s a Christmas piece in America.
“It happens to be on a religious subject, but at least its first performances were in theaters as entertainment, and there was some talk about how it might have been too religious of a subject for theaters. It’s great music and great music for the chorus—more chorus than any other Handel oratorio. One of the interesting things about this piece and all Handel pieces is that there’s no ‘authentic’ version because he did it a few times in his life and it was different every time. I love Handel for this reason. It is proof of a living, practical musician. It was always, in his lifetime, a work in progress,” he said.
The sponsor for “Handel’s Messiah” is Johnson Investment Council. The Artswave Partner for these performances is Convergys Corp.
Robert Porco has been recognized as one of the leading choral musicians in the United States. For more than 35 years he has been an active conductor of choral and orchestral works, as well as opera. During his career, Mr. Porco has conducted or prepared most of the major choral repertoire, ranging from the cantatas of Bach to the 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning On the Transmigration of Souls performed by the May Festival Chorus in 2008 under the baton of the composer John Adams.
Mr. Porco’s conducting career has spanned Western Europe and the United States, including performances at the Edinburgh Festival and in Lucerne and Reykjavik, as well as for the May Festival and the Tanglewood, Berkshire, Blossom and Grant Park festivals. He has been a regular guest conductor for the May Festival since 1991, with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra since 1996 and with The Cleveland Orchestra since 2000.
In 2010-2011, Mr. Porco celebrates his 22nd season as Director of Choruses for the May Festival. Highlights of his tenure include three highly acclaimed appearances in Carnegie Hall, including performances with the CSO under Jesús López-Cobos in 1991 and under James Conlon in 2001 and with The Cleveland Orchestra under Robert Shaw in 1995.
This season is also Mr. Porco’s 12th as Director of Choruses for The Cleveland Orchestra.
Mr. Porco has gained national recognition for his preparation of choruses for such prominent conductors as John Adams, Pierre Boulez, James Conlon, Andrew Davis, Christoph von Dohnányi, Paavo Järvi, Erich Kunzel, Raymond Leppard, James Levine, Jahja Ling, Jesús López-Cobos, Zubin Mehta, John Nelson, André Previn, Kurt Sanderling, Leonard Slatkin, Robert Shaw, Franz Welser-Möst, John Williams and David Zinman.
From 1988 to 1998, Mr. Porco was Artistic Director and Conductor of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. From 1979 to 1998, he was Professor of Music and Chairman of the Choral Department of Indiana University School of Music, where he was also a frequent conductor of opera and choral/orchestral programs.
As teacher and mentor, Mr. Porco has guided and influenced the development of hundreds of musicians, most of whom are now active as professional conductors, singers or teachers in schools of music, performance ensembles or solo careers. Mr. Porco also is a sought-after guest instructor and coach for conservatory students and young professional conductors and singers.
Elisabeth Marshall began her professional musical career at the age of 18 at home with the Portland (Maine) Opera Repertory Theatre chorus, then, three years later, their Emerging Artists Program. After earning a Bachelor degree in Music Education from the University of Southern Maine in 2002, Ms. Marshall spent one year at the Opera Studio at the University of Maryland-College Park, and in 2004 enrolled at the Indiana University School of Music, earning a Master of Music degree in Voice Performance. In 2006 she was awarded a Fulbright grant to study voice with distinguished soprano Jeanette Favaro-Reuter at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy,” in Leipzig, Germany, and also traveled to the Rhineland to sing with the Internationale Festivalensemble Stuttgart, under the direction of Helmuth Rilling.
Ms. Marshall has been a featured guest soloist with the Windsor (Ontario) Chorale & Symphony Chamber Orchestra, the Carmel Bach Festival, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Columbus (Indiana) Symphony and the Bangor (Maine) Symphony in such concert works as Pergolesi’s Stabat mater, Monteverdi’s Vespers (1610), J.S. Bach’s B minor Mass, Beethoven’s Chorale Fantasie, Fauré’s Requiem, and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. Other concert works include Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten and Lord Nelson Mass, Mozart’s Mass in C minor, Coronation Mass, Vesperae solennes de confessore, and Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem. Opera roles include “Rosalinde” in Die Fledermaus, “Rosabella,” opposite Metropolitan Opera baritone Timothy Noble, in The Most Happy Fella, “Elisetta” in Il matrimonio segreto by Cimarosa, “Susanna” in The Marriage of Figaro, “Lauretta” in Bizet’s Dr. Miracle, and “Mary of Bethany” in the world premiere of PILATVS, an opera by the late Robert Samels. A passionate learner and collaborator, she has participated in workshops, master classes and coachings with such prominent music professionals as Håkan Hagagård, Roger Vignoles, Bruno Weil, Ned Rorem, and the late Charles Riecker. Ms. Marshall is now working as an Associate Instructor of voice while earning a Doctorate of Music in Voice Performance at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, continuing her vocal studies with internationally renowned soprano Carol Vaness.
A native of Vancouver, Washington, mezzo-soprano Laura Thoreson is a Performer Diploma student at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where she recently completed her Master of Music in Voice. She received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, where she sang several roles, including Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. During her time in Bloomington, Thoreson has appeared as a soloist with the Bloomington Chamber Singers, as well as IU’s University Singers, Pro Arte Singers, Contemporary Vocal Ensemble and Summer Chamber Choir, and performed the role of Mama Lucia in the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra’s concert performance of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.
She has participated many times in IU’s Opera Workshop program, performing in scenes from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (“Suzuki”), Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (“Rosina”), Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (“Nerone”), Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel (“Hänsel”), and Bellini’s Norma (“Adalgisa”). Last spring, she appeared as “Suzy” in IU Opera Theatre’s production of Puccini’s La Rondine; as the soloist for the world premiere of Eric Lindsay’s award-winning composition Piano with IU’s New Music Ensemble; and as the mezzo-soprano soloist in IU’s production of Mendelssohn’s Elijah. Also in spring 2010, she performed the role of “Orfeo” in the Bloomington production of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. In October of this year, she appeared as “Jo March” in IU’s production of Adamo’s Little Women, and in December, she was the mezzo-soprano soloist for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. Ms. Thoreson is a member of several professional vocal chamber groups, and is an active participant in the Bloomington community as a musical collaborator.
Tenor Daniel Anderson from Springfield, Missouri, completed his undergraduate degree at Louisiana State University and received a Master of Music degree from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He has sung leading roles such as “Alfredo” in La Traviata and Candide at LSU, and has been a featured soloist for the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Anderson spent two summers as an apprentice artist with Wolf Trap Opera, and in the summer of 2010, Mr. Anderson was a Studio Artist with Central City Opera and won the company’s Studio Artist Award. In the fall of 2010, Anderson was a Resident Studio Artist with Kentucky Opera and performed the role of “Count Almaviva” in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, a collaboration with the Owensboro Symphony, and the role of “Beppe” in Kentucky Opera’s production of I Pagliacci. Mr. Anderson will make his Indianapolis Opera debut as “Don José” in the March 2011 production of La Tragédie de Carmen, and will also perform the role of “Gastone” in the May 2011 production of La Traviata.
Mark Diamond, a native of Augusta, Georgia, is currently studying at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with Bill McGraw pursuing a M.M. in Vocal Performance. He is the recipient of the 2010 Richard F. Gold Career Grant from Glimmerglass Opera and 2010 Southeastern Regional Finalist of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions. Operatic roles include “Bob” in The Old Maid in the Thief and “Damis” in Tartuffe with Capitol City Opera, as well as “Count Almaviva” in Le Nozze di Figaro and “Dr. Gregg” in Gallantry with Georgia Southern Opera. He has covered the role of “Tarquinius” in The Rape of Lucretia at the Aspen Music Festival. He recently spent a summer at Glimmerglass Opera covering the role of “Araspe” in Tolomeo and singing the role of “Top” in The Tender Land for which the New York Times praised him as “boisterous and entertaining.” In the future, Mr. Diamond will revisit the role of “Count Almaviva” in Cincinnati College-Conservatory’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro.
May Festival Chamber Choir Robert Porco, director
Established in 1873, the May Festival is directly responsible for the development of Cincinnati’s modern musical life. Music Hall, the city’s primary concert venue, was built specifically to house the Festival’s performances in 1878, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the fifth oldest orchestra in the United States, can trace its lineage back to this great tradition. Under the direction of James Conlon since 1979, the prestigious roster of Festival Music Directors has included, among others, Theodore Thomas, Max Rudolf and James Levine.
Formed in 1880 and directed by Robert Porco since 1989, the world-renowned May Festival Chorus, of which the May Festival Chamber Choir is a subset, is the core artistic element of the May Festival. This talented group of volunteers devotes countless hours to rehearsals and performances all year long. Chorus members come from all walks of life; teachers, doctors, accountants, students, attorneys, parents and grandparents all have in common a love of music and the joy of singing in this magnificent chorus.
In addition to May Festival performances, the Chorus has sung at Carnegie Hall, toured Europe and regularly appears with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras. The ensemble sings in annual Carolfest family concerts in December, presents a Fine Arts Sampler concert in February and performs a series of outreach and neighborhood concerts. The Chorus also hosts an annual choral workshop open to members of the community.
In addition to the valuable outreach performances of the May Festival Chorus and Youth Chorus, the May Festival presents educational programs featuring world-class guest artists. Recent programs have included master classes for aspiring singers taught by established operatic performers, as well as guest lectures and demonstrations presented by renowned composers in area schools.
Inducted into the Greater Cincinnati International Hall of Fame in 2004, the May Festival has earned critical acclaim both nationally and internationally and attracts serious music lovers from all over the world.
May Festival Chorus website: http://mayfestival.com/index.html