Posted by csavinell
Excerpts from Piano Dress Rehearsal for Handel’s Messiah
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I attended this evening’s concert (Friday, Dec. 2).
I came away with mixed feelings. The orchestra was, as ever, superb. The choir was, as ever, beautifully together. The soloists were, on the whole excellent, though one or two, here and there, were sharp, which may have been an acoustic problem.
The sound production was not so excellent. I had occasional difficulty hearing soloists (particularly the contralto/tenor duet towards the end).
But I think what ruined my experience of the concert was the fact that a group of people seated in front of me was negatively-disposed right from the start because one of their member was, quite simply, a boor, who loudly made it clear that he was (a) a boor; and (b) determined to be the center of attention because he wanted to show his wife/girlfriend that he appreciated her buying tickets for him to attend the performance even though he, personally, thought it was all crap. During the performance he unduly loudly expressed his opinion until someone told him to shut up.
This, for me, illustrated quite powerfully how a bad apple in a barrel can ruin everything around it.
Fortunately, based on the enthusiastic, not to say raucous, cheers from the audience as a whole at the end of each of the acts, and based on the fact that my perusal of the theater from my sequestered perch revealed that very few people left before the end, I would say that the performance was a huge success.
I can’t come to any of the ensuing performances this weekend, but I would definitely find time to experience it again should this version of Messiah be staged at a venue within striking distance of where I happen to be at the time.
As a follow up to the above response. Yes, there were cheers from the crowd at the end. At least, from those who didn’t walk out prior.
In all my years attending Messiah at PSO, I have never seen people walk out DURING a performance until now. I’ve seen people leave and not come back at the intermissions, but never during the performance.
The blatantly political message of this “production” left me stunned, to put it mildly.
Other than that, I agree that it was difficult to hear the soloists. The acoustics in the family circle are usually quite good. Last night, however, things came across as muffled. I can’t speak as to whether it was the fault of the performers or the excessive use of staging and props (like chrome Christmas trees and plastic candy canes) that altered the sound.
As you might have guessed, neither I nor my party were pleased.
Your advertisement for the Messiah on your website states, “This is a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed.”, and it certainly was that. Unfortunately for us, the “once in a lifetime experience” was true. However, “not to be missed”, not so much.
First, let me say that the lead and choral singers were exceptional. The orchestra outdid themselves as usual for this production which we have seen many times. We only wish that the extensive description of this version was available to peruse prior to us wasting $300.00.
The reviews in both papers were more than kind describing what we witnessed last night. One wonders if the reviewers had ever even seen Messiah before. In what should have been a moving, spiritual and uplifting night, turned into some sort of half baked re-production of Hair along with some obvious political statements more suited for San Francisco, Las Vegas or perhaps off-Broadway, but certainly not intended for the Heartland.
What was with all the middle aged people disrobing? Who sold you guys on that? Our 12 year old daughter, who has seen Messiah half a dozen times remarked, “I was wondering how far they would go removing their clothes. I’m scarred for life.” Which gave us our only entertaining moment of the night by the way.
In addition, policeman beating a “victim”? Who were we supposed to be feeling empathy for here? The policeman who had to remove the “victim” or the “victim”? Was this some sort of veiled reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement? If so, it was in poor taste in any case. No additional imagery is needed for this production, as witnessed by the proceeding 250 years viewing it. The material stands by itself and provides each of us with a deep appreciation of God’s hand in our lives just by listening to it and pondering its meaning. At least until last night.
In addition, your program stated that the text for Messiah was taken from the New Testament. Patently and utterly false. If anyone had taken the time to proof read the material, the correct information should have read that the vast majority of the libretto was taken from the Old Testament. But why let the facts get in the way of this “version” of Messiah. Like so many things that are happening today across all aspects of our lives, it begs the question if anybody in a leadership position actually understood what this production was going to be like. Or saw it.
No matter. We were sorely mislead and by the embarrassingly empty seats following each break, many others probably felt the same way. At least there wasn’t a line at the bar.
This year’s performance of the Messiah was totally shocking and offensive to me. To have the choir disrobing during the Hallelujah chorus was the epitomy of disrespect for the majestic music. I was unable to watch the second part of the music after watching drunken Santas sing “Behold the Lamb of God” while couples were lying on the floor of the stage simulating sex. I closed my eyes and tried to only hear the music. The party of four of us walked out in disgust after the end of the second part.
I will not be returning to Heinz Hall for any performances in the near future, if this is considered acceptable.
Unfortunately, I will have the images of this performance burned into my memory when I hear music that I have loved from my childhood.
I never thought I would see the day. I don’t make a habit of either walking out on a performance or writing reviews, but this really struck a chord in me.
I’ve posted this comment on other blogs on your site. But, I want to put my response where it will hopefully be seen and read.
This comment from my son on his Facebook page. He was visiting for the weekend. “saw a really cool staged version of the Messiah last night at Heinz Hall.”
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