MUSIC FOR KINGS
PATRICK DUPRE QUIGLEY
HANDEL/ MOZART (5-16-08)
By Lawrence Budmen
Seraphic Fire concluded an ambitious season on Friday at First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables with a preview of the future. A twelve piece instrumental ensemble, backed by organ continuo, joined the chamber choir for an evening of Music for Kings. Next season the Firebird Chamber Orchestra makes its official debut, performing both instrumental concerts and choral accompaniments.
Coronation anthems by Handel and Mozart followed the program’s royal mantra. The rest of the concert was something of a thematic stretch. After a less than successful premiere at The King’s Theater in London, Handel decided to intersperse performances of his sacred oratorio Israel in Egypt with Italian operatic arias. Following Handel’ s lead, choir director Patrick Quigley mixed liturgical and theatrical works by these two masters. The concert was really a celebration of the choir’s multi-talented singers who were given solo opportunities in arias and duos from the operatic and oratorio repertoire. Whatever the music’s Kingly associations, the sublime melodies and beautifully sung, artfully conceived performances made the concert special indeed.
Misty Bermudez’s ravishing mezzo embraced the noble melody of Ombra Mai Fu from Serse (also known as Handel’s Largo). The angular vocal lines of Their land brought forth frogs from Israel in Egypt brought waves of dazzling ornamentation from Reginald Mobley’s agile countertenor. Abigail Lennox’s light, nimble soprano elegantly traced the Baroque filigree of an aria from Handel’ s Ariodante.
Suzanne Hatcher, who shone brightly in Seraphic Fire’s recent performance of a Schubert mass with the New World Symphony, offered a riveting display of fearless coloratura in the Queen of the Night’s terrifying aria from The Magic Flute. Hatcher’s large, opulent voice was luxury casting in music usually sung by lighter sopranos. Derek Chester’s noble tenor soared eloquently in the concluding aria from Idomeneo, effortlessly reaching the highest limits of the upper register.
With the gleaming voice of a true Zerlina, Kathryn Mueller channeled the curving melodic lines of Batti, Batti from Don Giovanni. Baritone Graham Fandrei and soprano Sara Guttenberg sang the Papageno-Papagena duet from The Magic Flute with a winning combination of vocal finesse and opera buffa showmanship.
Evoking period instrument traditions, Quigley obtained wonderfully clear toned, vibratoless playing from the orchestral contingent. The plaintive oboe solos of Rick Basehore and James Button (both recent New World Symphony players) were an aural delight.
Quigley’s mastery of balance and timbre produces his signature choral blend, gorgeously sonorous with a touch of silver in tonal hues. Handel’s coronation anthem Zadok the Priest rang out in rousing fashion with invigorating instrumental repartee. The male Priests’ Chorus from The Magic Flute was sung with subtle artistry and refinement rarely present in the opera house.
The other worldly beauty of the Agnus Dei from Mozart’s Coronation Mass (with rapturously lyrical soprano solos by Gabrielle Tinto) concluded the program on a note of quintessential Mozartean repose, spun with unhurried grace by Quigley.
The concert will be repeated on Saturday at 8 P.M. at All Saints Episcopal Church in Ft. Lauderdale and Sunday at 4 P.M. at Miami Beach Community Church. For information call (305) 476-0260 or see