Messiah by George Frideric Handel

Saturday, May 6, 2017 - 7:30pm
Lincoln Center
417 W Magnolia St
Fort Collins, CO 80521
Messiah by George Frideric Handel, Larimer Chorale, Fort Collins, Colorado

Amy Maples, soprano; Genevieve Baglio, mezzo-soprano; Matthew Plenk, tenor; William Wilson, baritone; Larimer Chorale Orchestra

The immensely popular Messiah, by George Frideric Handel, is one of the most-performed choral works in American history.  For many, the Christmas season would not be complete without it, yet it was written as a Lenten/Easter piece, with the famous “Hallelujah Chorus” being heard after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension.  Handel, himself, conducted or oversaw thirty-six performances of Messiah – always in March, April or May – and it is in that tradition that the Larimer Chorale is delighted to present this most-beloved of large choral works.  Join the Larimer Chorale for our season finale, a complete performance of Handel's Messiah. 

Amy Maples, Genevieve Baglio, Matthew Plenk, William Wilson, Larimer Chorale

Performance Notes

December performances of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah have become as indispensable as the annual office Christmas party or the decorating of the family Christmas tree. Traditions often develop without regard for history and so it might not surprise us to know that the premiere performance of Messiah took place on April 13, 1742 – during Lent – and not during Advent or for Christmas. Handel conducted or oversaw thirty-six performances of Messiah, always in March, April or May.

Oratorios, by their very definition, are considered “sacred music” but in Handel’s lifetime Messiah was never performed in a church.  In his book Handel’s Messiah, British musicologist Manson Myers clarifies this issue:

Handel was never a church musician, and he seldom wrote music for the Church.  He was always a composer for the theatre and the concert hall … his “sacred” oratorios are neither liturgical nor ecclesiastical in tone, and even Messiah owes much of its charm and effectiveness to its theatrical garnish … In his day, Messiah was a public “entertainment …”

Interpretations of Messiah with very slow tempi and massive ritards have become commonplace, but recent research suggests that tempo markings such as largo and adagio - appearing frequently in the manuscript of the score - meant very different things to Handel than they do to modern-day musicians.  Such markings in Handel’s day were an indication of the character of the piece as much as tempo.  Noted Handel scholars Alfred Mann and Jan Peter Larsen have agreed that excessively slow tempos have been the pitfall of most Handel performances.

The utilization of four soloists – soprano, alto, tenor and bass – has become as commonplace as standing for the “Hallelujah” chorus.  According to Donald Burrows, Handel actually used a variety of soloists, usually numbering five or more.  He was constantly revising the score to adapt to the situation – transposing and altering many movements and reassigning the arias to different voice parts as necessary.

It should not be a surprise that there are ten different editions of the Messiah vocal/choral score in circulation.  Of the ten editions, the one published by G. Schirmer in 1912 has been the most popular.  What should be a surprise is the fact that the Schirmer edition has not been revised since its initial publication (more than 100 years ago) and it is laden with errors and assumptions that recent research has dispelled.  For instance, Handel’s original score did not have any dynamics for the chorus, but the Schirmer edition has added dynamics without reference to the fact that they are all editorial.  Such markings are now viewed with almost Biblical reverence because so many generations have grown up assuming these markings were Handel’s own.

In 1993, noted choral scholar and conductor Leonard Van Camp published a new edition of Messiah along with a guide for performance, teaching and singing. Van Camp has attempted to dispel many of the myths and ill-founded traditions that have become associated with performances of Messiah.  The Chorale is using the Van Camp edition for this evening’s performance. Aside from an improved visual presentation that includes larger pages and notation, etc., Van Camp provides tremendous insight into the performance practice of the piece, interpretation suggestions for each movement and a dramatic framework that gives the overall presentation a sense of structure, not unlike an opera; the division of the parts into scenes and the titles for each scene are Van Camp’s conception.

Veterans of multiple Messiah performances will hopefully hear newly conceived and quicker tempi and a lighter, more transparent interpretation that allows the character and drama of these Baroque pieces to come to the fore; all of this is an attempt to re-discover the piece as we think Handel intended.  Of course, none of us was living in the 18th century, so we rely on the research of musicologists to help us better understand the era, the composer and the glorious music!  Certainly, we’re all the better for the myths we’ve dispelled and the surprises we’ve uncovered.

- Michael Todd Krueger, Conductor and Artistic Director, Larimer Chorale

Soloist Information

Amy Maples, soprano

Amy is a Tennessee native who currently resides in Denver, CO, with her husband and furry child. Quickly gaining a reputation for her crystalline coloratura, relentless high notes, and witty theatrics, Amy compels audiences with her fearless artistry and attention to detail. Performing with such orchestras as the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Brevard Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Chamber Orchestra, and Orchestra Kentucky, among others, Amy is making her mark as a respected concert soloist as much as an operatic performer. As a guest artist with such Colorado companies as Opera Theatre of the Rockies, Opera Colorado, Loveland Opera Theatre, Boulder Opera, Voices West, The Denver Art Song Project, and Parish House Baroque, Amy is quickly becoming a go-to soprano on the high desert circuit.

 Possessing a special talent for all things light and florid, Amy enjoys singing the early operas of Handel and Mozart and is fast developing herself as an early music specialist. She also looks forward to including more 20th century works into her repertoire, especially connecting with the works of R. Strauss, Ravel, Britten, and the like. Roles include Cunegonde in Candide, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore, Gilda in Rigoletto, Linda in Linda di Chamounix, Lakmé in Lakmé, Thérèse in Les Mamelles de Tiresias, Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, Dorinda in Orlando, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Tuptim in The King and I, Cosette in Les Miserables, and Christine in The Phantom of the Opera.

 An extremely versatile performer, Amy was named a semifinalist in the 2012 American Traditions Competition after dazzling audiences and judges with selections from the jazz, gospel, pop, opera, musical theater, and art song repertory. Other recent honors include performing as a Regional Finalist in the 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, as a finalist in both the 2010 and 2011 Orpheus Vocal Competition, and as a semi-finalist in the 2010 American Traditions Competition at the 2010 Savannah Music Festival. Amy placed 5th in the Denver Lyric Opera Guild 2015 Annual Competition and was the 2014 recipient of the Pike’s Peak Opera League Career Grant Award.

 Amy received her MM in Voice Performance from Florida State University where she studied with tenor Stanford Olsen, after receiving her BM in Voice Performance at Lee University in her home state of Tennessee.

Genevieve Baglio, mezzo-soprano

Lauded for her "warm, rich mezzo voice and well-timed comic charm", mezzo-soprano Genevieve Baglio is an active performer in the Western United States, with recent performances in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California and Colorado.  Recently, her solo performances have included the role of Erica in Vanessa and Hansel in Hansel and Gretel with Boulder Opera, Kate in The Pirates of Penzance with Opera Idaho, Dido in Dido and Aeneas, Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors, Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music, The Witch in Into the Woods, and the one woman opera Bon Appétit! for which she was advised directly by composer Lee Hoiby.

 Her recent concert engagements have included solos in the Rossini’s Stabat Mater with the Larimer Chorale, Mozart’s Requiem with the Consort Columbia, Handel's Messiah with the Richland Oratorio Society, and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Idaho-Washington Chorale.

 A native of the Pacific Northwest, Genevieve has recently settled back into Washington state after many years of traveling.

 Matthew Plenk, tenor

A graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, tenor Matthew Plenk made his Metropolitan Opera debut in the 2007/2008 season as the Sailor’s Voice in Tristan und Isolde under the baton of Maestro James Levine, a role he repeated under the baton of Daniel Barenboim. He has since returned to the Met as Arturo, Janek in The Makropolous Case, the Song Seller in Il Tabarro and Marcellus in Hamlet, and appeared as Arturo in the Met’s 2011 tour of Japan. Other recent opera engagements have included Steuerman in Die fligende Holländer at the Los Angeles Opera, Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance and Macduff in Macbeth at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at the Virginia Opera, Ferrando in Cosí fan tutte at the Atlanta Opera, Don Ottavio at the Boston Lyric Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Des Moines Metro Opera;   Nanki-Poo in The Mikado at the Virginia Opera, and Kudrjáš in Janácek’s Kat’a Kabanová with the Yale Opera.

Mr. Plenk made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Metropolitan Opera Chamber Ensemble, singing the Brahms Liebeslieder Walzer and duets by Schumann.  Other concert engagements have included Handel's Messiah with the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor and with the Minnesota Orchestra, concert performances of Salome and Daphne with the Cleveland Orchestra in Cleveland and in New York, Borsa in a concert performance of Rigoletto with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Shepherd in Oedipus Rex with both the Boston Symphony Orchestra (with James Levine) and the Philadelphia Orchestra (with Charles Dutoit), and his debut at the Tanglewood Festival as Iopas in Berlioz’ Les Troyens with James Levine conducting. In 2015 Mr. Plenk was one of sixteen singers invited to work with Naxos Records and Yale University in a collaborative project to record the complete songs of Charles Ives. 

 Mr. Plenk has been appointed as Assistant Professor of Voice at The University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.  He is a Samling Scholar, and holds a Bachelor’s degree from the Hartt School of Music and a Master’s degree from Yale University. His many awards include Grand Finalist in the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, First Place winner of the Five Towns Music Competition, and Grand Prize winner at the Music Lovers Competition.

 William Wilson, baritone

William Wilson holds a Master of Music degree in Vocal Arts from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the University of Nevada, Reno. He lived in Europe for 15 years where he performed leading roles in Opera, Operetta, Concerts and Musicals. He has performed with the Landestheater Coburg, Theater St. Gallen, Vienna Sinfonietta, Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Theater Hof, Theater Oberhausen, Theater Annaberg-Buchholz, Opera Classica Europa, Frankfurter Kammeroper, European Chamber Opera, Phantom der Oper Basel, Sunset Blvd. Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden Chamber Orchestra, Frankfurter Sinfoniker, Krakow Radio Symphony, Dubrovnik Symphony, Symphony of Plovdiv and Sophia, Bulgaria, Carl Witzel Verein, Symphony Karlsbad, and theUniversity Orchestra of Dresden.

In the United States he has performed with Nevada Opera, Nevada Opera Theater, Brooklyn Opera, Long Beach Opera, Opera Fort Collins, Los Angeles Concert Opera, Las Vegas Symphony, Reno Philharmonic, Reno Chamber Orchestra, Orange County Master Chorale, Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra, Juilliard OTD and the Crystal Cathedral Choir and Orchestra. Some of the roles he has performed are; Don Carlo di Vargas in La Forza del Destino, Wolfram in Tannhäuser, Zar in Zar und Zimmerman, Giorgio Germont in La Traviata, Dr. Schön in Lulu, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Marat in Marat, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Count in Le Nozze di Figaro, Dandini in Cenerentola, Antonio in Linda di Chamounix, Guglielmo in Cosi fan Tutte, Amonasro in Aida, Escamillo in Carmen, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliette, Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Polyphemus in Acis and Galatea, Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Belcore in L’Elisir D’Amore, and Mr. Andre in The Phantom of the Opera.

Mr. Wilson is Associate Professor of Voices at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.