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  • David Shengold


At this time of year, New York's concert halls and churches host dozens of performances of Handel's wonderful 1741 oratorio--its text, ironically, clearly destined for the Easter and not the Christmas season. This year boasts many alternative musical celebrations from which to choose. (Photo: @St. John's the Divine, El Niño Reconsidered )

Bach's underperformed but sublime and melodic Christmas Oratorio (1734) takes Carnegie center stage 12/7 with Bernard Labadie leading the Orchestra of St. Luke's and La Chapelle de Québec, plus such sterling soloists as soprano Lauren Snouffer and baritone Joshua Hopkins. Please see link for tickets.

The same evening, with a program named Unconventional Wisdom, the iconic Wall Street area Trinity Church celebrates the rich and too-little-known musical legacy of Italian convents when Elena Williamson leads singers from Downtown Voices and Trinity's distinguished chorus in religious and harp- and gamba-accompanied settings by a quartet of 17th-century women composers, Chiara Maria Cozzolani, Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana, Vittoria Aleotti, and Caterina Assandra. Tickets here.

Handel's very different oratorio, Judas Maccabeus (1746), treats the Hannukah story as resistance to Roman tyranny. Internationally rising lyric tenor Jack Swanson takes the title role in the American Symphony's 12/14 traversal at the festive Riverside Church, featuring two excellent choirs led by the gifted James Bagwell. Tickets here.

Jack Swanson

Photo Credit: Lily Lancaster

12/16 at Carnegie, the estimable and diverse Cecilia Chorus of New York offers a politically engaged program: Ralph Vaughan Williams's 1936 antiwar Dona Nobis Pacem, blending the Catholic Mass with Walt Whitman verse, plus the world première of Daron Hagen's human rights cantata Everyone Everywhere, to texts by (among others) Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela and John Lewis. Several United Nations officials will speak, and Mark Shapiro's dynamic soloists include thrilling soprano Brianna Robinson and incisive, versatile mezzo Amanda Lynn Bottoms. Tickets here.

Brianna J. Robinson

Photo Credit: Chellypic Photography

El Niño Reconsidered heard 12/21 in St. John the Divine's inviting space is the questing American Modern Opera Company troupe's stripped-down adaptation of John Adams' 2000 oratorio, a contemporary Nativity drama incorporating women and Latinx voices. Ever-engaging soprano Julia Bullock conceived this version and starred in it alongside Davóne Tines, Anthony Roth Constanzo, and a parcel of distinctive instrumentalists like violinist Miranda Cuckson and pianist Conor Hanick. Tickets here.

Should Messiah's familiar pull still entice you, the Philharmonic's version 12/12-16 offers dynamic baroque specialist conductor Fabio Biondi and strong soloists, including brilliant mezzo Hannah Ludwig. Tickets here. The always capable Kent Tritle leads the venerable Oratorio Society in a massive Carnegie rendition featuring world-class vocalists Kathryn Lewek and John Brancy. Tickets here.


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