After 1741, Händel gave up writing operas for good and focused on composing dramatic English oratorios with Biblical themes. These met with great success. Of the German-English composer’s oeuvre, Messiah, which sings the coming and resurrection of the Redeemer and includes the ever popular Hallelujah, remains one of his most beloved works.
At the end of the 1740s in Mozart’s Austria, Catholic ecclesiastical music was spurned due to the religious policy of Joseph II, including the premieres of Händel’s sacral compositions. However, an enthusiastic Viennese baron commissioned his freemason friend, Mozart, to tailor some of the works of the Baroque composer to the classicist tastes of the times. A private premier of the German language version of Messiah was held in 1789 in the Viennese castle of Count János Esterházy, who would go on to become high sheriff of Veszprém, Hungary.
Mozart approached the material with reverence and an astonishing sense of style: he mainly changed the structures of the arias and left the chorus parts almost entirely intact. He embellished the more restrained Baroque aspects with woodwind instruments and trombones but, for practical reasons, did away with the organ. The “German Messiah” is the result of a peculiar “cooperation” of two prodigies: Händel’s genius shines through the interpretation offered by Mozart.
As part of Christian Spirit Season, this is the first time the Opera is performing the staged version of this oratorio: the Mozart version is performed as directed by Ferenc Anger and with the new Hungarian translation provided Ádám Nádasdy.
Featuring Rita Rácz (soprano), Atala Schöck (alto), István Horváth (tenor), Krisztián Cser (bass), and artists of the Hungarian National Ballet. The Hungarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus (chorus master: Gábor Csiki) is conducted by Gergely Kesselyák.
Premiere: 21 December 2019
Further performances: 23, 25, 28 December 2019 & 17, 20 May 2020
Photo taken at the rehearsals by Valter Berecz