Hallelujah! Handel’s “Messiah” Returns To Benaroya Hall This Weekend

Seattle Symphony Handel's Messiah

Almost three hundred years after its first performance, Handel’s triumphant and moving oratorio, “Messiah,” is still is a beloved holiday tradition all over the world.

Seattle Symphony and the Seattle Chorale perform the sacred masterpiece December 15-17th at Benaroya Hall. Ruth Reinhardt conducts, with soloists soprano Deanna Breiwick (Seattle native), mezzo-Soprano Eve Gigliotti, Grammy-winning tenor Aaron Sheehan, and baritone Will Liverman, recently seen as Figaro in Seattle Opera’s production of “The Barber of Seville.”

Ruth Reinhardt conducts the Seattle Symphony for Handel's "Messiah" (photo courtesy of Seattle Symphony)

Ruth Reinhardt conducts the Seattle Symphony for Handel’s “Messiah” (photo courtesy of Seattle Symphony)

During Handel’s lifetime, “Messiah” was regularly used to raise money for charity. This is only one of the many traditions surrounding “Messiah.” Another is the habit of standing during “Hallelujah,” the great chorus that concludes Part 2 of the oratorio. It’s a centuries-old custom but no one seems to know why.

The most prevalent theory says that King George II stood during an early London performance, and the audience — subjects of the realm — could not remain seated while the monarch was on his feet. Other explanations abound. Maybe he was so moved by the performance that he stood up out of tribute to the composer. Or perhaps he had been dozing and woke with a start. Or he was hard of hearing and stood because he thought they were playing “God Save the King.” No one will ever know, but to this day, audiences still stand for the “Hallelujah” Chorus.

George Frideric Handel composed his oratorio, “Messiah,” in 1741, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the version of the “Psalms” included with the “Book of Common Prayer.”

He completed the music in 24 days. At the end of his manuscript Handel wrote the letters “SDG”—Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone the glory”. This inscription and the speed of the composition lead to a fanciful theory that Handel wrote the music in a fervor of divine inspiration in which, as he wrote the “Hallelujah” chorus, he saw all heaven before him.

Handel’s “Messiah” was first performed in Dublin on April 13, 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later. It was modestly received, but gradually gained popularity, becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.

Handel’s “Messiah” runs Dec 15-17th at Benaroya Hall Tickets range from $24.00–$76.00, box office 206-215-4747, or online at www.seattlesymphony.org

The Performers:

Ruth Reinhardt, Conductor
Conductor Ruth Reinhardt was born in Saarbrücken, Germany, and is currently finishing her Master of Music degree in Conducting at The Juilliard School where she studies with Alan Gilbert.

Deanna Breiwick. Soprano
American soprano Deanna Breiwick, hailed by critics for her “sweet sound and floating high notes” and for being a “vocal trapeze artist” (New York Times), is enjoying an exciting and diverse career. Ms. Breiwick is a 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finalist, a 2012 Grand Prize Winner of the Sullivan Foundation Vocal Competition, and a First Prize Winner of the Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competition. She also holds awards from the George London Foundation, the Giulio Gari Foundation, the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, and the Richard F. Gold Career Grant. Ms. Breiwick is a native of Seattle, WA and holds degrees from The Juilliard School and Mannes College of Music.

Eve Gigliotti, Mezzo-Soprano
Mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti has a voice that been described as “spirited, handsome-toned” (Opera News), with a stage presence that is “strong” and “impassioned” (The Washington Post). Quickly becoming known for her diverse stylistic range, Ms. Gigliotti is an exciting young artist who brings rich, resonant sound and a uniquely individual interpretation to her performances.

Aaron Sheehan, Tenor
Grammy award-winning American tenor Aaron Sheehan has established himself as a first-rate singer in many styles ranging from oratorio and chamber music, to the opera stage. He regularly performs in the United States, South America and Europe. He sang the title role in Boston Early Music Festival’s recording of Charpentier’s La Descente d’Orphée aux Enferswhich won Best Opera Recording at the 2015 Grammy Awards. A native of Minnesota, Aaron Sheehan holds a BA from Luther College and a MM in Early Voice Performance from Indiana University. He is currently on the voice faculties of Boston University, Wellesley College, and Towson University.

Will Liverman, baritone
Praised by The New York Times as “mellow-voiced and charismatic” and identified as a baritone to watch by Opera News, Will Liverman is quickly gaining a reputation for his compelling performances, while making significant debuts at opera houses across the country.

Don’t forget your tickets! Get info and tickets here!

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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