Featuring Guest Artists: Malcolm Ulbrick (Elijah), baritone; Karen Lauer-Anderson (Widow/Angel); soprano; Meghan Dawson (Queen Jezebel/Angel), mezzo-soprano; Leandro Lacava (Obadiah, King Ahab), tenor
Stephanie Lilley, soprano; Sabrina Miller, soprano (The Youth); Beth Chaudhri, mezzo-soprano; Lee Cord, tenor
Perhaps the greatest of all nineteenth century oratorios, Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah tells the story of the Old Testament prophet who is charged with returning the people of Israel to the favor of God. From its imaginative orchestration, to the beauty of its arias and the power of its choruses, to the dramatic portrayal of Elijah himself, this composition deserves its place as one of the greatest choral masterworks of all time.
With the Larimer Chorale Orchestra
"The last note of Elijah was drowned in a long-continued unanimous volley of plaudits, vociferous, and deafening. Never was there a more complete triumph - never a more thorough and speedy recognition of a great work of art." That was how the music critic for The London Times reported Elijah's premiere on August 26, 1846. It was the triumphant reception of Elijah that anointed Mendelssohn as the true successor to the ever-popular George Frideric Handel in the eyes of his contemporaries - and among later generations in England. Elijah would elevate Mendelssohn to superstar status that in England, endures to this day.
As a child, the prodigious Mendelssohn was regularly compared to Mozart: gifted and talented beyond his years. Sadly, Mendelssohn grew to become a remarkably self-critical composer, who was often troubled by doubts about his creative work. Into adulthood he came to find contemporary musical trends distasteful and this led to feelings of disillusionment and isolation. Elijah's success reaffirmed his faith in the elevating power of art while at the same time testing his creative abilities. The intense compositional process drove the composer into a state of physical exhaustion. Mendelssohn was a "workaholic" who isolated himself into a depressed state and he collapsed in a series of fatal strokes - only 38 years old - a little more than a year after achieving the most glorious acclaim of his career. Elijah became, in essence, his Requiem. He did not live to hear the German-language premiere. "I imagined Elijah as a grand, mighty prophet, of the kind we might require in our own day," the composer wrote while the idea was just beginning to percolate. "Energetic and zealous, but also stern, angry, brooding," Mendelssohn continued, "in striking contrast to the rabble you find both in court and in the populace - indeed, up against the whole world - yet borne aloft on angels' wings."
Following the enthusiastic praise heaped on his debut oratorio, Saint Paul, in 1836, Mendelssohn almost immediately became determined to write another, but nearly a decade passed before he began composing Elijah in earnest, though his letters periodically refer to the theme and how to approach the text. In 1845, he received an invitation to present a new oratorio for the following year's Birmingham Festival. He completed the massive score with just two weeks to spare and then, ever dissatisfied, set about making substantial revisions immediately after the premiere, despite the triumphant reception.
The story of the prophet Elijah is told in the Old Testament Books of Kings. As the oratorio begins, King Ahab of Israel has instituted the worship of the god Baal in place of the God of Abraham, and has established temples in Baal’s name. (His Phoenician wife, Jezebel, convinced him to do so.) Elijah prophesies that as punishment, God will curse the land with a severe drought. Starved and suffering, the people pray for mercy, and are encouraged to repent by the faithful believer Obadiah. An Angel appears to Elijah and sends him to the home of the Widow in Zarephath, whose dying son Elijah miraculously restores to health. Elijah then confronts King Ahab, who accuses Elijah of causing the drought he prophesied; Elijah responds that it is actually the king’s worship of Baal that is to blame, and challenges the priests of Baal to demonstrate their god’s supposed power by praying for him to light the fire under a sacrifice. Despite their frantic prayers, the followers of Baal receive no fire; Elijah, in turn, prays to God, and in response, fire descends from heaven. The people proclaim the miracle they have seen, and Elijah instructs them to rise up and kill the false god’s prophets. Obadiah then implores Elijah to pray for rain, and when he does, the long drought finally comes to an end.
In the second part of the oratorio, Elijah once again confronts Ahab, but Queen Jezebel, furious about the destruction of the priesthood of Baal, commands that the people kill the prophet. Warned by Obadiah that his life is in danger, Elijah flees to the desert, where he descends into despair and doubt. He is comforted by Angels who instruct him to go to Mount Horeb where the divine presence of God is revealed to him. Rejuvenated by his encounter and with his faith restored, Elijah returns to Israel to continue his work. When his time comes to depart the earth, a fiery chariot carries him away to heaven in a whirlwind. In the concluding choruses, parallels between Elijah and the future Messiah are established.
Mendelssohn described the triumph of his oratorio to his brother: "No work of mine ever went so admirably at its first performance, nor was received with such enthusiasm by both the musicians and the audience. I was able to sway at will the enormous mass of orchestra and choir and organ ... no less than four choruses and four arias were encored." The drama of the oratorio and imposing character of the man, Elijah, is as exciting to behold in the twenty-first century as it was at its premiere. Mendelssohn's talent for writing engaging drama, heart-warming arias and bombastic choruses is on display once again for all to admire.
Malcolm Ulbrick (Elijah)
Baritone Malcolm Ulbrick is thrilled to make his debut with the Larimer Chorale. He received his Master of Music degree from CU in May 2014 where he studied with Patrick Mason and performed such roles as Billy Bigelow in Carousel, Olin Blitch in Sussanah, Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress, Gideon March in Little Women and Marcello in La Boheme. In 2012 he sang the title role in Brundibar by Hans Krása at the Colorado Music Festival. Fellowship credits include participating in the 2011 Music Academy of the West where Malcolm covered the role of Dr. Bartolo in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and audited the role of Belcore in Donizetti's Elisir d'amore with the Martina Arroyo Foundation's 2013 Prelude to Performance program.
He has a flair for production work and just completed a stint as Assistant Director on CU's Eklund Opera Program's production of Mozart's Die Zauberflote, directed by acclaimed modern opera composer Herschel Garfein. He made his directorial debut with Boulder Opera Company for their 2015 children’s production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia and in April 2016 made his performance debut with BOC as the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
Recent engagements have included singing the bass solo in Beethoven's 9th Symphony with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Riolobo in Florencia en el Amazonas with Opera Steamboat and Harry in a workshop production of Jake Heggie’s new opera It’s a Wonderful Life with CU New Opera Workshop. He has also performed regularly with Opera Theatre of the Rockies where he sang Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm in their 2012 production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music. Other solo credits include the 2015 Bass Soloist with the Grand Junction Messiah Choral Society. Malcolm is fond of community outreach and performed in the BOC's February production of the children's chamber opera The Firebringers by local composer Chappell Kingsland. He is also a member of Central City Opera's educational outreach ensemble and performs with Inside the Orchestra. Malcolm currently studies with Carol Kirkpatrick and lives in Denver with his wife Carmel, son Aero, and 2 dogs.
Karen Lauer-Anderson (Widow/Angel)
Karen Lauer-Anderson is a native of Long Island, New York and received her Bachelor of Music and Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance at Oklahoma City University. She has also studied in New York with Eleanor Steber and Jana Pivacek, and in Texas with Harold Heiberg. Ms. Lauer-Anderson taught applied voice, vocal pedagogy, diction for singers, art song literature, opera workshop, voice class and voice seminar at Phillips University and was a private studio voice instructor in Enid, Oklahoma. She served extensively as an adjudicator voice competitions throughout the state of Oklahoma. After moving to Colorado, she taught voice lessons and voice class at Colorado State University. She currently has a voice studio and serves as Director of Music Ministries at Drake Road Christian Church in Fort Collins.
Performance credits for Ms. Lauer-Anderson include the Aspen Music Festival in Aspen, Colorado; Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony in Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Enid Phillips Symphony Orchestra in Enid, Oklahoma; Opera under the Stars in Edmond, Oklahoma; Tulsa Opera in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Western Oklahoma State College Symphony Orchestra in Altus, Oklahoma as well as the Fort Collins Symphony, the Fort Collins Chamber Players, the Fort Collins Opera Company, the Larimer Chorale, and the Denver Brass. She has competed and placed in the New York Metropolitan Opera Regional auditions, the Merola Apprentice Program for the San Francisco Opera, and the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition. Ms. Lauer-Anderson believes that her enthusiasm and talent are gifts from God.
Meghan Dawson (Queen Jezebel/Angel)
Described by critics as a "revelation," with "a warm-timbered voice," (Ali Hassan Ayache, Ópera e Ballet), Meghan Dawson, mezzo-soprano, has performed throughout Europe, Brazil, and at home in the United States. Ms. Dawson was the winner of the Concurso Maria Callas in 2014, for which she was awarded the role of Rosina in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. While living and performing in Brazil, Ms. Dawson signed a recording contract with Sony Music as a soloist in the pop/opera group, Qu4ttro.
Ms. Dawson performed the second soprano solo in John Rutter's Requiem with members of the Fremont County Philharmonic at the age of 17. Other oratorio credits include the alto solos in Mendelssohn’s Christus and in Guglielmo Lardelli’s Mass in F. She has also appeared as a soloist with several ensembles touring in Europe, including the Wyoming Ambassadors, S.A.G.E ensemble, and the University of Wyoming Collegiate Chorale.
Ms. Dawson's international operatic premiere was in the role of Meg Page in Verdi's Falstaff at the Theatro São Pedro in São Paulo, Brazil. In subsequent seasons at the same venue she sang the roles of Idamante in Idomeneo, Malcom in La Donna del Lago, and Nicklausse in The Tales of Hoffmann. Meghan was Rosina in The Barber of Seville in several Brazilian cities, including Jacareí, São José dos Campos, and São Caetano. She has also performed as a soloist at the prestigious Sala São Paulo. Other notable roles include Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri, Isolier in Le Comte Ory, and Madame Melibea in Il Viaggio a Reims.
Ms. Dawson has performed extensively as a recitalist, returning to the Theatro São Pedro for several concert series including works ranging from Schubert to Gershwin. She has participated in the world premiere of two new works, working closely with composer and countertenor Marconi Araújo, as part of a song cycle composed particularly for her voice. She enjoys performing 20th century and contemporary music, including song cycles by Anton Webern, Leonard Bernstein, and Dominick Argento. She has also received an audience choice award in the all-female showcase “Shorts by Skirts” for three songs of her own composition.
Leandro Lacava (Obadiah, King Ahab)
At home on both the musical theater and operatic stages, Leandro Lacava, tenor, has performed roles ranging from Don Ramiro in Rossini’s Cenerentola to Schroeder in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Mr. Lacava was Hylas in the Brazilian premier of Les Troyens at the prestigious Amazonas Festival of Opera. Recently he shared the stage with Brazilian leading lady Christiane Torloni as Anthony Candolino in the Tony award-wining play, Masterclass. Mr. Lacava’s first operatic performance was in the world premiere of the opera A Carta by Brazilian composer Elomar Figueira Mello. Subsequent roles in his home country include Conde Almaviva in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Frick in Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne, and the Messenger in Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila.
Performances in the United States include Don Ramiro in Rossini’s Cenerentola, Frederick in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, and Filch in John Gay’s The Beggars Opera. Leandro has also performed oratorio and sacred music at several venues in Portugal and Italy, including a performance at Vatican City of the Missa Longa em Ré Menor by Brazilian composer Marconi Araújo, at which Pope John Paul II was in attendance and which was broadcast on national Italian television. After several years singing classical music exclusively, the singer successfully branched into the realm of musical theater. Mr. Lacava has performed the roles of Nicky/Trekkie in Avenue Q and Tony Harwell in New York, New York, and Anthony Candolino in Masterclass, where he played an opera singer. Leandro’s voice has also appeared in the Brazilian versions of several Disney and Discovery Kids TV series, including Sofia, the first; The 7D; Mike, the Knight; Gravity Falls; as well as the feature film Oz: the Great and Powerful. His most recent appearance with Larimer Chorale was in the role of Catullus in Carl Orff’s Catulli Carmina in October, 2006.