ELIAS – Oratorio in Firenze
Elias, oratorio op. 70
per soli, coro e orchestra
Conductor, Daniele Gatti
Soprano, Genia Kühmeier
Mezzo, Sara Mingardo
Tenor, Rainer Trost
Bass, Peter Mattei
Orchestra e Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Maestro del Coro, Lorenzo Fratini
Firenze, Italy. Teatro dell’Opera. 2016 April 9th
Review by Fabio Bardelli, text and photo
FIRENZE/ITALY: 1846 August 26th – 1847 November 4th, just one year separates the premiere of the oratorio Elias in Birmingham from the death of its author Felix Meldelssohn-Bartholdy. Between these two dates there was the triumphant performance in London on 1847 April 16th, at the presence of the British Royal Family.
The german Briton naturalised composer Georg Friederich Händel seems almost to be the fil rouge linking these persons and events or almost the “stone guest”. Mendelssohn infact seems to take inspiration from Händel and his magnificent “sound cathedrals” rather than from Bach in composing this great symphonic-choral masterpiece that has always aroused the admiration of experts and audience, although in Italy this oratorio is really little known. In Florence Elias had not been performed for ten years, in fact, the previous perfomance was conducted by Sejii Ozawa in 2006 with Josè van Dam in the title role.
The mighty dramatic architectures that are the backdrop to prophet Eljah’s story make a great musical fresco of awesome majesty and beauty, an authentic monumental backcloth on which stands the powerful hieratic figure of the prophet to whom Mendelssonh entrusts highly evocative pages. Another absolute protagonist however is the chorus, to which are reserved important difficult pages of great beauty.
We felt really deep emotions in this beautiful Florentine concert, with the Orchestra and Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino really in great shape conducted in an extremely persuasive way, this is in my memory the best concert of Daniele Gatti that I have heard. The variegated dense pages by Mendelssohn are almost physically “shaped” by the conductor’s gesture who shows to have a very special affinity with Mendelssohn’s language and particularly with this oratorio. Daniele Gatti extolls the instrumental particuarities, the oases of intense lyricism, the grandiosity, the dramatic breath not free from some excess of an almost ”mediterranean” fullness.
Wonderful main character was the swedish baritone Peter Mattei, an authoritative and very human prophet Elijah, sporting a firm moving voice, intense phrasing and beautiful lyrical accents.
The two women of the vocal cast Genia Kühmeier and Sara Mingardo were excellent and extremely appropriate while tenor Rainer Trost‘s performance was a little subdued.
The absolutely stunning performance of Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino trained by Lorenzo Fratini must be reported, these artistic teams show to have nowadays very few rivals in Italy. Everyone seemed at his finest by the charismatic presence of Daniele Gatti on the podium.
It was overall a very exciting concert that really bewitched the fairly large audience for over two hours (the oratorio was performed with no intermission), after which the success was very warm for all.