By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer
It was during the aria "It is enough" in Mendelssohn's Elijah Saturday night, that bass-baritone James Morris, singing the title role, summed up the spectrum of emotions felt by the prophet. Up to that point, Morris had captured the Old Testament character vividly and profoundly, reflecting at alternate times devotion, anger, anguish and doubt.
But that single moment of despair, colored by the melancholy sound of a solo cello (Daniel Culnan), brought to the fore the very humanness of Elijah's character. Morris' Herculean account, coming the night after he sang Verdi's Requiem, will be remembered as one of the great performances heard on Music Hall's stage.
A rainbow flag adorns the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption on Sunday during a dress rehearsal of the May Festival Chorus' production of Noah's Flood.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
On day two of the Cincinnati May Festival, chorus director Robert Porco was on the podium for Mendelssohn's oratorio, Elijah, sung in English. The May Festival Chorus, which brought thrilling color to the drama, was joined by a quartet of exceptional soloists: Morris, with soprano Cynthia Haymon, mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson and tenor John Aler.
The only disappointment was the playing by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which failed to consistently follow Porco's clear direction. Although Porco's view was broad and spiritual, the musicians took off at their own tempo in the Overture. But the chorus came in on cue with its great outcry, "Help Lord!"
Morris inhabited his role with authority, focus and an arresting vocal timbre. His "Lord God of Abraham" was reverent and beautifully phrased; the hushed chorus that followed was deeply moving. Morris' presence was commanding, whether he was demanding that the followers of Baal be killed, or begging the Almighty for rain. One of his moving moments was the arioso "For the mountains," with a beautifully executed oboe obbligato (Lon Bussell).
Mezzo-soprano Simpson was eloquent and warm in her solos; her Jezebel was forceful if not terribly malicious. Fresh-voiced soprano Haymon brought conviction to her aria, "Hear ye, Israel," and pure intonation to her lines as the Angel. As Obadiah, Aler was equally expressive.
Porco, the country's pre-eminent choral conductor, led his chorus animatedly and with attention to detail, and paced the music well. The May Festival Chorus was precise and full-bodied, with a refined but powerful sound. The double quartets were memorable; diverse scenes, such as the jubilant rain chorus, were vividly portrayed.
From the balcony, Katie Johnson performed the child soprano solo fearlessly. On a higher perch in the gallery, the Cincinnati Boychoir lifted pure voices in the charming Trio, "Lift thine eyes."
The crowd of 2,670 barely moved a muscle through the entire performance, and sprang to its feet with cheers at the conclusion.
Related photo: Song before the flood
TEMPO COVER STORIES
For teen job seekers, clothes count
Morris' 'Elijah' sure to make Music Hall history
Transition from crib to bed no cause for worry
Get to It: A guide to help make your day
Racing toward total fitness
High activity requires careful nutrition
Fit Bits: Ways to stay active and healthy
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
'Matrix Reloaded' sets record
Rain didn't dampen SpringFest
Small screen, big talents
Photography project brings 'Unseen America' to light
Music industry 'spoofs' illegal file traders
Youth choruses booming
More composers writing for young voices
Children should get head start in choirs
Community choruses for kids
Youth chorus profiles:
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Springfest earns place on music calendar
DEMALINE: Theater can counter 'youth drain'
Invisible actors still in spotlight
Festival hits high note with 'Requiem'
CCM's 'Pelleas' lusty and stunning
Play looks squarely at Big Brother
Brainy Prophet evokes musical kaleidoscope
DAUGHERTY: Prom survivor shares advice with son
In the classroom with photographer Jimmy Heath
Collector's box score 1,000 and counting
Wallace uses dance as therapy
KENDRICK: Not all guide dogs, owners are same
Great books, for every kind of cook
Catch wild Alaskan salmon at Palomino
Peppers can be such sweet heat
Carving a furniture history
Area carvers carry on, but the times aren't on their side
French drain can divert storm water
Chinese dogwood will bloom for a month
When chaos surrounds, find peace in your garden
Tip of the week: Ways of unsticking sticky labels
Help for the 'storage -challenged'