Staging helmed by renowned opera/theater director Sam Helfrich; concert features Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, soloists William Ferguson, Lindsay Ammann, Laura Heimes, Philip Cutlip

PITTSBURGH – Music Director Manfred Honeck will lead the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) in a unique, costumed, theatrical production of one of the most beloved and best known holiday musical traditions, Handel’s Messiah.

Honeck and the PSO have joined forces with renowned opera and theater director Sam Helfrich to stage this spectacular, never-before-seen production of Handel’s masterpiece at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 3, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Heinz Hall, as part of the 2011-2012 BNY Mellon Grand Classics season.

Helfrich’s bold vision allows audiences to experience the much loved music and story in a dramatic and contemporary production filled with dazzling lighting by Eric Southern, costumes by Nancy Leary, and vivid sets envisioned by theater and opera set designer Laura Jellinek.

Helfrich and Honeck not only weave a multi-layered reading of the religious story, but also provide a provocative and nonlinear, three-act allegorical tale that captures snapshots of America in the 1950s, modern day, and at the turn of the 20th century.

Tickets, ranging from $20-$93, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412.392.4900, or by visiting the PSO online at Group tickets also are available. Call 412.392.4819 for more information.

Soloists for Messiah include tenor William Ferguson, mezzo-soprano Lindsay Ammann, soprano Laura Heimes, and baritone Philip Cutlip. The concerts will feature Honeck and the PSO musicians in the pit, while the fully costumed soloists and Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh perform on stage.

These performances of Messiah are part of the PSO’s annual Music for the Spirit concerts that celebrate the spiritual and universal message of music. Each season, the PSO plans two performances with spiritual roots. The first concert is held at Heinz Hall as part of the BNY Mellon Grand Classics subscription series. The second concert is free and will be held in the community, bringing the PSO and Music for the Spirit to churches, synagogues, mosques and community centers.

The PSO would like to recognize and thank BNY Mellon for their 2011-2012 title sponsorship of BNY Mellon Grand Classics. Fairmont Pittsburgh is the official hotel of the PSO. Delta Air Lines is the official airline of the PSO. Bobby Rahal Automotive Group is the official automotive group of the PSO.

Sam Helfrich is an opera and theater director based in New York. He has directed opera productions at companies including Glimmerglass Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Portland Opera, Opera Boston, Spoleto Festival/USA, Berkshire Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Wolf Trap Opera and Boston Baroque Orchestra, among others. Recent opera highlights include the world premiere of Michael Dellaira’s The Secret Agent at Center for Contemporary Opera in New York and the Armel Opera Festival in Hungary, Don Giovanni with Yale Opera, The Turn of the Screw at Boston Lyric Opera, Philip Glass’ Orphée at Portland Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, and Virginia Opera, Anthony Davis Amistad at Spoleto Festival/USA, and Aida at Opera Omaha. In theater, his recent off-Broadway production of Tape, by Stephen Belber played to wide acclaim.

William Ferguson appeared with the Santa Fe Opera as Caliban in the North American premier of Thomas Adès’ The Tempest and, in 2005, bowed in Sydney with Opera Australia singing Truffaldino in a new production of The Love for Three Oranges. In New York, Ferguson has performed Beppe in I Pagliacci at The Metropolitan Opera, as well as the title role in Candide and Nanki-Poo in The Mikado at New York City Opera.

Lindsay Ammann made her Metropolitan Opera debut in April as Rossweisse in Die Walküre, with James Levine conducting. This season, she also has performed as Beatrice in Le donne curiose and Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd with Wolf Trap Opera Company, and as a soloist with National Symphony Orchestra. In 2012, Ammann will cover the role of Goffredo in Rinaldo at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Ammann recently spent two seasons as a Resident Artist with Pittsburgh Opera, debuting three major roles in her first season – Olga in Eugene Onegin, opposite Anna Samuil and Dwayne Croft; Mistress Quickly in Falstaff with Mark Delavan as Falstaff; and leading the cast as the title role in a new production of The Rape of Lucretia.

Laura Heimes has collaborated with many of the leading figures in early music, including Andrew Lawrence King, Julianne Baird, Tempeste di Mare, The King’s Noyse, Paul O’Dette, Chatham Baroque, Apollo’s Fire, The New York Collegium, The Publick Musick, Brandywine Baroque, Trinity Consort, and Piffaro – The Renaissance Band, with whom she toured the United States. She has been heard at the Boston, Connecticut and Indianapolis Early Music Festivals, the Oregon and Philadelphia Bach Festivals under the baton of Helmuth Rilling, the Carmel Bach Festival under Bruno Weil, and in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil in concerts of Bach and Handel. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in December 2003 in Handel’s Messiah.

Philip Cutlip’s 2011-12 season includes Dido in Dido & Aeneas with Philharmonic Baroque Orchestra and Mark Morris Dance Group; Bach’s Cantata No. 192 and the Brahms Requiem with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra; his return to New York City Opera as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte; Handel’s Alexander’s Feast with Philharmonic Baroque Orchestra; Carmina Burana with Memphis Symphony Orchestra; and Haydn’s The Seasons with Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

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