"The Creation"

April 2, 2011

Review by Jay Rath on Haydn's Creation:
Joseph Haydn’s self-proclaimed masterpiece, The Creation, met with an instant and enthusiastic standing ovation in Madison on Saturday evening. Around 440 attended the performance by the Wisconsin Chamber Choir and Stoughton Chamber Singers at the Madison Masonic Center.
The Creation is properly termed an oratorio, but in many ways it resembles an opera staged concert-style, complete with characters Adam, Eve and three angels. As we head into the Easter season it would be a fine salute to this year’s 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, from which the text is drawn (along with Milton’s Paradise Lost). Or it would be, except the English libretto was translated into German for Haydn, and then translated back into English several times.
The work tells the story of Biblical creation and the early days of Eden, foreshadowing the fall from grace. The performance overall was rich, lush and satisfying, presenting great caramel-flavored swirls of sound. The choir was always precise in phrasing, and stunning in its presentation of big, wide-open chords.
Soprano Deanna Horjus-Lang was bold and athletic; bass Brian Leeper presented a fine anchor throughout. Madeline Olson, as Eve, performed with bright ease. J. Adam Shelton was a stand-out as the angel Uriel, with his fine, clear tenor.
Many of the soloists were drawn from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, as was conductor Robert Gehrenbeck, who led the choirs and fine orchestra in a spare, effective manner.
The auditorium of the Masonic Center revealed itself as an excellent space for live classical presentation, with little or no amplification evident or even necessary. The center is too seldom-used, despite its history as a home for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah in the 1980s.
Let’s hope for many more concerts there from the outstanding Wisconsin Chamber Choir and Stoughton Chamber Singers.