messiah - Toronto Symphony Orchestra

George Frederic Handel
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Part One
Monday, December 19, 2016
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Part Two
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Friday, December 23, 2016
Part Three
Nicholas McGegan
Yulia Van Doren
Abigail Levis
Isaiah Bell
Daniel Okulitch
The December 21 performance is sponsored in
support of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir by
Middlefield Group.
Toronto Mendelssohn Choir
Noel Edison
Artistic Director
Handel’s Messiah is one of the great traditions of the season. Somehow, this
time of year makes traditions seem even more significant. It is a turning point in
the year—by the calendar, it is the time when the days cease to grow darker and
begin to grow lighter with the promise of spring a few months away, and this
great work is a perfect way to celebrate. Messiah was written to celebrate faith,
but it is first and foremost a work of music, not of philosophy or religion. Great
melodies transcend any divisiveness among people, making us one, voices united.
Handel has achieved something remarkable in this wondrous music: it overcomes
time and language, and links the past and the future. Simultaneously pious
and joyous, it is music that is both old and still new, still able to communicate
to contemporary audiences. Nicholas McGegan returns to the TSO with this
wonderful celebration, and he is joined by four outstanding soloists and the everpopular Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.
George Frederic Handel
Born: Halle, now in Germany, Feb 23, 1685
Died: London, United Kingdom, Apr 14, 1759
Composed: 1741
The English oratorio, of which Messiah is
arguably the greatest and certainly the most
popular specimen, was a genre that Handel
single-handedly invented by forging elements
from existing types of dramatic and sacred
music into a potent synthesis. When his fortunes
as an operatic impresario declined in London
through the 1730s, Handel increasingly turned
his attention to oratorio. In 1741, the same
year in which he gave his last Italian opera in
London, Handel was invited to produce a season
in Dublin, and that summer, he composed
Messiah. The libretto was compiled by Charles
Jennens, an eccentric but well-connected
Englishman with a passion for literature and
music. A public rehearsal on April 12, 1742
and the official première the next day drew
large and enthusiastic audiences, and earned
overwhelmingly positive reviews. In March of
the following year, Handel introduced Messiah
to London, though not before weathering some
controversy instigated by religious authorities
and others for whom the very concept of an
oratorio—a musical setting of a religious subject
intended for public entertainment outside the
church—was an improper conflation of sacred
and secular. Objections were short-lived,
however, and Messiah quickly assumed its place
(in the English-speaking world especially) as one
of Handel’s most beloved works.
In many ways, Messiah is typical of a Handel
oratorio—in its reliance on types of recitative and
aria borrowed from opera, for instance, and in
its basic structure of three large “acts” divided
into smaller “scenes”. But Messiah differs from
Handel’s other oratorios in some significant
ways. First, it deals directly with the life of Christ—
subject matter audiences were not accustomed
to seeing in an English theatre. Second, the
text, taken directly from the Authorized Version
of the Bible, includes no real poetry, only
relatively short units of prose. And third, the
text is a narrative, not a drama—the story is not
dramatized, but observed, related, interpreted,
The libretto of Messiah gives almost no attention
to Christ’s own words and deeds, preferring to
maintain a more cosmic perspective, focusing
on God’s redemption of mankind through Christ.
Part One deals with Biblical prophecies of the
Saviour, and their realization in the incarnation of
Christ; Part Two deals with the events of Christ’s
Passion and the ultimate triumph of the Second
Coming; and Part Three comments on Christ’s
role as Saviour.
Program note by Kevin Bazzana
First page of “Worthy is the Lamb” from Handel’s manuscript
LIBRETTO – Text compiled by Charles Jennens
SINFONIA (Overture)
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,
saith your God. Speak ye comfortably
to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her
warfare is accomplish’d, that her iniquity
is pardon’d. The voice of him that crieth
in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way
of the Lord, make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
(Isaiah 40:1–3)
Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry mountain
and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the
rough places plain. (Isaiah 40:4)
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth
of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 40:5)
Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of Hosts:
Yet once, a little while, and I will shake
the heav’ns and the earth, the sea
and the dry land, and I will shake all
nations, and the desire of all
nations shall come. (Haggai 2:6–7)
The Lord, whom ye seek, shall
suddenly come to His temple, ev’n the
messenger of the Covenant, whom ye
delight in: behold, He shall come, saith
the Lord of Hosts. (Malachi 3:1)
But who may abide the day of His coming?
And who shall stand when He appeareth?
For He is like a refiner’s fire. (Malachi 3:2)
And He shall purify the sons of Levi,
that they may offer unto the Lord an
offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3)
Behold! A virgin shall conceive, and
bear a son, (Isaiah 7:14)
And shall call His name Emmanuel:
“God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get
thee up into the high mountain; O thou that
tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy
voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say
unto the cities of Judah: Behold your God!
(Isaiah 40:9)
Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory
of the Lord is risen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:1)
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and
gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall
arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen
upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy
light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
(Isaiah 60:2–3)
The people that walked in darkness have seen
a great light. And they that dwell in the land of
the shadow of death, upon them hath the light
shined. (Isaiah 9:2)
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is
given, and the government shall be upon His
shoulder; and His Name shall be called Wonderful,
Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting
Father, The Prince of Peace! (Isaiah 9:6)
PIFA (Pastoral Symphony)
There were shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flocks by night. (Luke 2:8)
And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone ’round about
them, and they were sore afraid. (Luke 2:9)
And the angel said unto them:
Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings
of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day, in the city of
David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2:10–11)
He was despised and rejected of men, a man of
sorrows, and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)
And suddenly there was with the angel a
multitude of the heav’nly Host praising God,
and saying: (Luke 2:13)
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth,
good will toward men! (Luke 2:14)
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout,
O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King
cometh unto thee. He is the righteous Saviour,
and He shall speak peace unto the heathen.
(Zechariah 9:9–10)
Then shall the eyes of the blind be open’d, and
the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the
lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the
dumb shall sing. (Isaiah 35:5–6)
He shall feed His flock like a shepherd,
and He shall gather the lambs with His arm,
and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead
those that are with young.
(Isaiah 40:11)
Come unto Him all ye that labour,
come unto Him that are heavy laden,
and He will give you rest. Take His yoke
upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek
and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest
unto your souls. (Matthew 11:28–29)
His yoke is easy, and his burthen is light.
(Matthew 11:30)
Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh
away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks
to them that plucked off the hair; He hid not His
face from shame and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)
Surely, He hath borne our griefs and
carried our sorrows; He was wounded
for our transgressions, He was bruised
for our iniquities; the chastisement of our
peace was upon Him. (Isaiah 53:4–5)
And with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5)
All we like sheep have gone astray, we have
turned ev’ry one to his own way; and the
Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:6)
All they that see Him laugh Him to scorn,
they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads,
saying: (Psalm 22:7)
He trusted in God that He would deliver Him; let
Him deliver Him, if He delight in Him.
(Psalm 22:8)
Thy rebuke hath broken His heart;
He is full of heaviness. He looked for some
to have pity on Him, but there was no man,
neither found He any to comfort Him.
(Psalm 69:20)
Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto
His sorrow. (Lamentations 1:12)
He was cut off out of the land of the living;
for the transgressions of Thy people was
He stricken. (Isaiah 53:8)
But Thou didst not leave His soul in Hell;
nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see
corruption. (Psalm 16:10)
Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up,
ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall
come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord
strong and mighty in battle. The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:7–10)
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach
the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of
good things. (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15)
Why do the nations so furiously rage together,
why do the people imagine a vain thing? The
kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take
counsel together against the Lord and against
His anointed. (Psalm 2:1–2)
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away
their yokes from us. (Psalm 2:3)
He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them
to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision.
(Psalm 2:4)
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, Thou
shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
(Psalm 2:9)
Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent
reigneth. (Revelation 19:6)
I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that He shall stand at the latter day
upon the earth, and tho’ worms destroy
this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
(Job 19:25–26)
For now is Christ risen from the dead,
the first fruits of them that sleep.
(1 Corinthians 15:20)
Since by man came death, by man came
also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in
Christ shall all be made alive.
(1 Corinthians 15:21–22)
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all
sleep, but we shall all be chang’d, in a moment,
in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
(1 Corinthians 15:51–52)
The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be
rais’d incorruptible, and we shall be chang’d.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption,
and this mortal must put on immortality.
(1 Corinthians 15:52–53)
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath
redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive
power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength,
and honour, and glory, and blessing.
Blessing and honour, glory and pow’r be
unto Him that sitteth upon the throne,
and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.
Amen. (Revelation 5:9, 12–14)
The Kingdom of this world is become the
Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He
shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16)
Nicholas McGegan
Nicholas McGegan made his TSO début in January, 2001.
As he embarks on his fourth decade on the podium,
Nicholas McGegan is increasingly recognized for his
probing and revelatory explorations of music of all
periods. In 2015, he celebrated his 30th year as Music
Director of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and he is
also Principal Guest Conductor of the Pasadena Symphony.
Best known as a Baroque and Classical music specialist, McGegan’s approach—
intelligent, infused with joy, and never dogmatic—has led to appearances with many
of the world’s major orchestras. At home in opera houses, McGegan shone new
light on close to twenty Handel operas as the Artistic Director and Conductor at
the Göttingen Handel Festival for 20 years (1991–2001) and the Mozart canon as
Principal Guest Conductor at the Scottish Opera in the 1990s. His 2016/17 guest
appearances include, among others, the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Pasadena
Symphony; Baltimore, St. Louis, and Toronto symphony orchestras; Calgary
Philharmonic Orchestra; Handel and Haydn Society; Aspen Music Festeival; and The
Cleveland Orchestra/Blossom Music Festival.
His extensive discography features eight releases on Philharmonia Baroque’s label,
Philharmonia Baroque Productions (PBP), including the 2011 GRAMMY® Award–
nominated recording of Haydn symphonies and most recently, the first-ever
recording of the newly rediscovered 300-year-old work La Gloria di Primavera by
Alessandro Scarlatti.
English-born Nicholas McGegan was educated at Cambridge and Oxford. He
was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
“for services to music overseas”. Other awards include the Halle Handel Prize;
the Order of Merit of the State of Lower Saxony (Germany); the Medal of Honour
of the City of Göttingen, and a declaration of Nicholas McGegan Day, by the
Mayor of San Francisco in recognition of his work with Philharmonia Baroque.
In 2013, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music awarded him an honorary
degree of Doctor of Music.
For more information, please visit
Yulia Van Doren
Yulia Van Doren made her TSO début in December, 2012.
Recognized by Opera Magazine as “a star-to-be” following
her Lincoln Center début, young Russian-American
soprano Yulia Van Doren’s début with the Toronto
Symphony Orchestra was acclaimed as a “revelation...a
ravishing lyric voice and an ease with vocal ornamentation
that turned her into an enchanted songbird” (Toronto Star).
A dedicated interpreter of repertoire off-the-beaten path, career highlights include
creating the lead female role in the world première of Shostakovich’s Orango with
the Los Angeles Philharmonic, directed by Peter Sellars and released on Deutsche
Grammophon; two GRAMMY®-nominated opera recordings with the Boston Early
Music Festival; the modern revival of Monsigny’s opera Le roi et le fermier at Opera
de Versailles, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center (recorded for Naxos); and a
tour of Handel’s Orlando with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra to the Mostly
Mozart, Ravinia, and Tanglewood festivals. Ms. Van Doren’s 2016/17 season features
appearances with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Mark Morris Dance Group,
Milwaukee and Charlotte symphonies, and the Arion Baroque Orchestra.
Abigail Levis
These performances mark Abigail Levis’s TSO début.
Named “Début Artist of the Year” by the Joy in Singing
Foundation, mezzo-soprano Abigail Levis was recently
hailed in The New York Times for her “lithe-voiced”
performance in “First Songs” with Dawn Upshaw, while
The Boston Musical Intelligencer noted her “dramatic
style” and “high level of technical ability” in the Handel and Haydn Society’s Israel in
Egypt. As winner of the Opera Foundation’s Curt Engelhorn Competition, Ms. Levis
joined the Deutsche Oper Berlin in September, 2016, and appears in La traviata, Dido
and Aeneas, Don Carlo, Death in Venice, Andrea Chenier, and Les huguenots.
First Prize Winner in the San Diego District Metropolitan Opera National Council
auditions, she is an alumna of the Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Colborn-Stein
Young Artist Program and the Utah Opera Young Artists Program, appearing as
Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, and the title role in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges.
From Portland, Maine, Ms. Levis holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music,
the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston, and Bard College
For a biography of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir,
please turn to page 25.
Isaiah Bell
Isaiah Bell made his TSO début in March, 2015.
The New York Times described Canadian-American
tenor Isaiah Bell’s portrayal of the Madwoman in Britten’s
Curlew River as “a performance of haunting beauty,
ideally depicting emotional distraction with ultimate
economy and glowing vocal skill.” Recently, Isaiah sang
Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Metz, France; Almaviva in Il barbiere di
Siviglia at Opera Lyra Ottawa; Strauss’s Elektra under Yannick Nézét-Séguin at Opéra
de Montréal; and Handel’s Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day and Messiah with Nicholas
McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. In 2017, he will sing Weill’s Seven
Deadly Sins with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Bernstein’s Mass with the
Bach Choir of Bethlehem, and will make appearances with the Seattle Symphony,
Nashville Symphony, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Isaiah appears on the Decca recording of L’Aiglon with Orchestre symphonique de
Montréal under Kent Nagano, and on two discs of German Baroque cantatas with
Daniel Taylor’s Theatre of Early Music. He is also active as a composer and librettist;
in January 2017, he will perform as the Emcee in an original music-theatre piece,
Mewsy the Adulteress, at the Buddies in Bad Times cabaret space.
Daniel Okulitch
These performances mark Daniel Okulitch’s TSO début.
Bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch has performed in some of
the most prestigious opera companies and orchestras
throughout Europe and North America. Most recently, he
débuted at Opéra de Montréal as Lieutenant Horstmayer
in Kevin Putt’s Silent Night; the role of Herman Broder in
the world première of Enemies: A Love Story with Palm Beach Opera; and the role of
Ennis Del Mar in the world première of Brokeback Mountain at Madrid’s Teatro Real. He
also joined the cast of the Metropolitan Opera for their production of Don Giovanni,
and returned to Santa Fe Opera as the Count in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.
Future engagements include Leporello in Don Giovanni and a revival of JFK with
Opéra de Montréal; his return to Vancouver Opera as Joseph de Rocher in Dead Man
Walking; his début with New Orleans Opera as Don Giovanni, and his début with the
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro. In concert, he performs
Bach’s St. John’s Passion with Master Voices at Carnegie Hall.