Soloists shine in Master Chorale’s truncated, lightweight “Messiah”

By David Fleshler

Brett Karlin conducted the Master Chorale of South Florida's opening concert of its 15th season Saturday in Fort Lauderdale.

Brett Karlin conducted the Master Chorale of South Florida in Handel’s “Messiah” Friday night at the Broward Center.

The South Florida Christmas season brings temperatures that dip into the upper 50s, endless accounts of “Mi Burrito Sabanero” on Spanish-language radio stations and a performance somewhere of Handel’s Messiah.

This time it was the Master Chorale of South Florida at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, giving a fleet, energetic account of Handel’s classic that was distinguished by an outstanding quartet of vocal soloists.

Under Brett Karlin, the Chorale’s artistic director and conductor, the ensemble performed a version that was heavily cut to make for a compact, intermission-free concert. The cuts removed most of the middle section dealing with Christ’s passion and death, which had the effect of lightening the work by taking out most of its darker, more introspective passages.

There were sufficient Messiah veterans in attendance at the Broward Center to lead the audience in the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus, a practice of murky provenance that may have begun at an early London performance, when King George II rose for the chorus. When the king stands, no one sits.

The excellent soloists each brought their own vocal personalities to the parts.

Tenor Steven Soph brought smooth tone and agile ornamentations to “Ev’ry valley shall be exalted.” He sang with biting aggression and drama in “Thou shalt break them,” bringing extra urgency and force to the word “break” in a manner that elevated the passage to high drama.

When the baritone Hadleigh Adams made his entrance, with a stern, declamatory and fortissimo “Thus saith the Lord,” a couple audience members visibly jumped in their seats. After the mellow, fluid tones of the tenor, these words came as a game changer, intense and operatic. He gave a stirring account of the slow crescendo of “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth” and brought a darkly gleaming upper register to “Behold I tell you a mystery.”

The countertenor Reginald Mobley, a familiar figure on South Florida stages as former longtime member of Seraphic Fire, brought pure tones and a sustained legato to “But who may abide the day of his coming?” He too caught fire in the rapid passages that followed, enunciating the high-speed words with crisp consonants.

The soprano Yetzabel Arias was the only one of the four soloists whose diction occasionally made the words hard to make out. But she brought a rich, luxuriant voice to her solos, with an especially expressive “I know that my redeemer liveth.”

The performance by the chorus was strikingly transparent and light for an ensemble of more than 120 singers. Entrances in “And the Glory of the Lord” were clear without disturbing the ensemble’s rounded, soft-edged tone. Singing was buoyant and joyful in “Unto us a child is born.” 

In the Hallelujah Chorus, Karlin led a dynamic, carefully calibrated performance with suspenseful dips in volume that allowed the triumphant passages to emerge with that much more force. There were times when more weight and power seemed needed to bring off this music in all its ceremonial glory, but this was still a rousing account.

The unnamed pickup orchestra was clearly well-rehearsed and provided firm support to the chorus. If intonation in the strings occasionally wavered, the musicians gave spirited, accurate accounts of the orchestra’s stand-alone sections.



Posted in Performances

2 Responses to “Soloists shine in Master Chorale’s truncated, lightweight “Messiah””

  1. Posted Dec 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm by David Matthews

    Accolades that are well deserved I’m sure!! Congratulations to all!! Especially Brett Karlin for his inspired performance!!

  2. Posted Dec 11, 2017 at 2:16 am by madreselva

    the soprano is the only not Native English speaker…

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