Auckland Choral's Messiah was a glorious celebration of its 100th consecutive annual performance of Handel's oratorio. It was also a timely reminder of Uwe Grodd's massive contribution during his 10 years as music director.
Grodd's short welcoming speech, complete with deft Brexit quip, was much appreciated by a full house who thrilled to the 258-strong choral forces, including guests from City Choir Dunedin, Auckland University Chamber Choir and Brisbane Chorale.
It wasn't only the Hallelujah Chorus that thundered forth; the prodigious energy didn't falter from the striding And the Glory and a fiery Let us break their bonds asunder to a magisterial closing Amen.
This was singing so powerful that occasionally it dominated the sprightly accompaniments of Pipers Sinfonia. Nevertheless, there were many instrumental delights including rich strings in He was despised, a star turn from Huw Dann in Handel's big trumpet aria and Melody Lin's delicate harp, not to mention a line-up of harpsichords adding their own rhythmic zest to punchy choruses.
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A fine quartet of soloists was headed by soprano Marlena Devoe. Delivering lyricism without affectation, she dared early on to lace taxing coloratura with bold ornamentation. Australian mezzo Deborah Humble sang Wagner impressively on this stage seven years ago. Now a noted Wagnerian, she brought this sumptuous tone to add emotional impact to a moving He was despised.
Tenor Simon O'Neill had the task of unfurling the story, with an immaculately turned recitative and aria while Martin Snell again proved how Handel's bass arias can be lethal traps for foolhardy baritones. Snell, a true bass, as nimble as he is tuneful, was in excellent form, bringing an appreciated sense of the theatrical to brilliant and evocative music.
What: Auckland Choral
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewed by: William Dart