Gravelle, Shannon, Notes
George Frideric Handel. Messiah. DVD. Jean-Christophe Spinosi / Ensemble Matheus / Arnold Schoenberg Chor. Staged by Claus Guth. With Florian Boesch, Richard Croft, Susan Gritton, Cornelia Horak, Bejun Mehta. Berlin: C Major, 2010, 2009. 703008. $31.75.
Conductor Jean-Christophe Spinosi weaves a dramatic musical tale of grief, joy, irony, betrayal, and confrontation with this untraditional performance of Messiah. This surprising, and perhaps shocking, interpretation takes the listener into a Baroque world tinged with romanticism. In a Hande lian move, solos are reassigned to different voice types. Soprano Susan Gritton gracefully sings "Thou Art Gone Up On High," normally a bass aria. Warm and expressive countertenor Bejun Mehta takes many of the alto arias. Boy soprano Martin Pollmann enjoys singing the announcement of the birth of Christ. Florian Boesch gives a new meaning to the "raging bass" aria. Richard Croft, tenor, and Cornelia Horak, soprano, both sing arias convincingly well. Paul Lorenger, who plays the central character, does not make a sound, but instead dances. Perhaps the purest character is the sign language performer, played by Nadia Kichler. The Arnold Schoenberg Chor, under the Chorus Master of Erwin Ortner, performs with a great intentionality and responsiveness to the music and the staging.
The story that unfolds onstage in the Theater an der Wien is not a familiar Messiah story. This performance, divided into four parts instead of the normal three, centers around Lorenger's character, a man who commits suicide. While the suicide is not shown on stage, viewer discretion is advised due to the mature and intense nature of the scene. His wife, played by Horak, is having an affair with his brother or close companion, played by Mehta. Boesch, playing either another brother or close companion, struggles with his own darkness. Croft, who is a spiritual leader, deals with his failure to help Lorenger. …