Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah is back for a fourth outing, again under the musical direction of Adam Scime. The formula is basically the same as previous years.
Take excerpts from Handel’s Messiah
Add some new music
Arrange for small chamber ensemble, electronics and turntables (Sarah Svendsen, analog and electric harpsichord; Joel Schwartz, electric guitar; Jeff McLeod, electric organl; SlowPitchSound, turntablist)
Take a quartet of singers from different vocal traditions (Jonathan MacArthur, Katherine Hill, Aviva Chernick and Alex Samaras)
Throw in a dancer (Lybido)
Have some of the text sung in a language relevant to the singer (Gaelic, Hebrew, Swedish this time)
Stage it at Drake Underground
This year in addition there was some interpolated music not directly derived from Messiah; to whit, a gospel piece for Samaras called “Personal Jesus” and a harpsichord solo.
In reviewing Against the Grain’s staged version of Handel’s Messiah I alluded to having had some thoughts about staging Messiah. That’s because, although I realised that the AtG production was quite excellent it was also making me a bit uncomfortable and I needed to think through why that was. I also wanted to think about in relation to a very different approach to staging the piece; that taken by Claus Guth at the Theater an der Wien in 2009. There also seems to be a fashion for this sort of thing emerging with a St. Matthew Passion, also in Vienna, and the TSO about to stage Mozart’s Requiem. What can we say about staging a work that was never intended to be staged and doesn’t even tell a story as Handel’ other oratorios do? Some of the thoughts that follow might apply to staging any non-narrative religious text but most will be very specific to Handel’s Messiah and specifically rooted in the text selection by Charles Jennens.