LSM Newswire

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” at Merrill Auditorium, March 31

Portland's Choral Art Society Presents a Special Production of Mendelssohn's Elijah with Special Guests and Full Orchestra, March 31

PORTLAND, Maine – Almost exactly 200 years after the composer's birth, Portland's Choral Art Society will present Felix Mendelssohn's dramatic, moving oratorio Elijah in its full splendor on Tuesday, March 31 at Merrill Auditorium. Full of beatiful solos, Elijah depicts various events in the life of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. This production will include the Choral Art Society Masterworks Chorus, live orchestra and special guest soloists Lisa Saffer (soprano), Jennifer DeDominici (mezzo-soprano), John McVeigh (tenor) and Philip Cutlip (bass). The concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

An oratorio is an elaborate musical presentation composed of an orchestra, choir and soloists. A sacred response to the secular, oratorio was popularized in response to the birth of opera in the early 1600s, but in a manner appropriate for church performance. The oratorio is similar to opera in the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters and arias; however, as opera is musical theater, an oratorio is strictly a concert piece, often dealing with sacred topics, with little or no interaction between characters and no props or elaborate costumes.

Widely known as the best oratorio of the 19th century, Mendelssohn did not shrink from the harshness of the Old Testament plots, and his music for Elijah is powerfully full of compelling scene-setting. Composed in the spirit of Mendelssohn's Baroque predecessors Bach and Handel, whose music he greatly admired, the style clearly reflects Mendelssohn's own genius as an early Romantic composer.

Scored for a full orchestra, a large chorus, and four vocal soloists, the part of Elijah is sung by the Philip Cutlip and is a major role. The soloists include:
  • Lisa Saffer (soprano) – An internationally acclaimed operatic soprano based in Maine, Saffer has performed on concert stages with virtually all leading American orchestras and regularly throughout Europe. Particularly well known for her performances in the operas of Handel, she is a recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society Award and was nominated for an Olivier Award, London's equivalent of New York's Tony Award. She has thrilled local audiences in past performances with PORTopera and the Portland Symphony Orchestra.
  • Jennifer DeDominici (mezzo-soprano) – A 2000 graduate of the USM School of Music, DeDominici is a resident of Denver and a mainstay in the performances offered by Opera Theatre of the Rockies. She performed the starring role in their production of Carmen in 2008. She has also performed for Opera Colorado, Central City Opera and the Santa Fe Opera, and was awarded first prize in the 2007 Denver Lyric Opera Guild Competition.
  • John McVeigh (tenor) – A resident of Portland, McVeigh has been a full-time professional opera singer since 1995. He has performed with countless symphonies and opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, NYC Opera and Los Angeles Opera, as well as concert stages around the globe. Locally he has performed on multiple occasions with the Portland Symphony Orchestra and played the role of Tybalt in last summer's PORTopera mainstage production of Roméo et Juliette.
  • Philip Cutlip (bass-baritone) – Established on both the concert and opera stage, Cutlip has performed with nearly every major North American orchestra, and his performances have been called "moving beyond words." A distinctive element in Cutlip's career is his ongoing collaboration with both well-established dance companies and avant-garde ensembles. He performed in the 2002 PORTopera mainstage production of Gounod's Faust, and was a tremendous sensation when he performed with the Portland Symphony Orchestra at their March 2008 "German Requiem" concert.

The Choral Art Society's presentation of Elijah will be performed at Portland's Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle Street, Tuesday, March 31 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $15-$47 and are sold through PortTix at (207) 842-0800 or (Phone and internet orders subject to $5 per ticket handling fee.) Tickets may also be purchased in person at the box office at 20 Myrtle Street, Monday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.

About The Choral Art Society:
The Society has more than 150 members who perform in three distinct ensembles: the symphonic Masterworks Chorus, the mid-sized Choral Art Singers, and the intimate a cappella Camerata. All singers are skilled amateurs, selected by audition. The Society offers an annual concert series and appears regularly as guests of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Robert Russell, professor of music at the University of Southern Maine, is the conductor and artistic director of The Choral Art Society.
For more information about The Choral Art Society and the 2008-09 performances visit or call (207) 828-0043.

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