Oratorio Society of New York to Open 141st Season at Carnegie Hall, 11/4

Oratorio Society of New York to Open 141st Season at Carnegie Hall, 11/4

The Oratorio Society of New York, the city's standard for grand choral performance, launches its 141st Carnegie Hall concert season with two pillars of choral grandeur: Mozart's Requiem, in the original Süssmayr edition, and Mendelssohn's rarely-performed secular cantataDie erste Walpurgisnacht (The First Walpurgis Night), conducted by Kent Tritle, on Monday, November 4, 2013, at 8:00 PM.

Kent Tritle, in his ninth season as OSNY Music Director, has assembled a roster of soloists for the program featuring Jennifer Zetlan, soprano; Jennifer Feinstein, mezzo-soprano; Aaron Blake, tenor; Sidney Outlaw, baritone; and Soloman Howard, bass.

The program pairs Mozart's powerful Requiem, one of the quintessential expressions of sorrow, with Mendelssohn's exuberant secular cantata, one of his largest symphonic choral works (following Elijah and Paulus, both of which have been performed since 2010 by the OSNY). Die este Walpurgisnacht is a setting of a poem by Goethe depicting a wily deception by a group of druids who, attempting to practice their pagan rites in the face of Christian opposition, masquerade as devils to scare the Christians away.

As Kent Tritle notes in a video on the OSNY website, Die erste Walpurgisnacht is "a work about religious tolerance. It had been discounted by many people because it is a shorter work, and it's only really much more recent scholarship that has pointed out how important this piece was to Mendelssohn-and as a result has made possible scholarly editions." Of the character of the work itself, he notes that "the orchestra plays a major role in creating the scenery-think A Midsummer Night's Dream-and the four soloists (alto, tenor, baritone, bass) play specific characters, so this is really a mini-drama."

On December 23, the OSNY will take New York's holiday musical season to a culmination with its 204th performance of Handel's Messiahwith soloists Kathryn Lewek, Rebecca Ringle, Nicolas Phan, and Dashon Burton. Mr. Tritle will bring the OSNY's Carnegie Hall series to a close with a performance of Bach's epic St. Matthew Passion on May 20 with soloists Nicholas Phan as the Evangelist, Kevin Deas as Christus, and Leslie Fagan, Susanne Mentzer, Matthew Plenk, and Kelly Markgraf. In the course of the 2013-14 season, Mr. Tritle will conduct all three of Bach's great choral masterworks: the St. Matthew Passion with the OSNY, the St. John Passion at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine; and the Mass in B Minor at the Manhattan School of Music.

In addition to its own annual Carnegie Hall series, on March 6, 2014, the OSNY will be the guest chorus for a performance of Beethoven's profound Missa Solemnis, to be conducted by Sir Roger Norrington with the Orchestra of St. Luke's. And on November 20, 2013, it will participate in "Most Elevating of Voices," a concert celebrating the musical legacy of Andrew Carnegie and his support of organ and choral music. The event will be led by Mr. Tritle as part of his "Great Music in a Great Space" series at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and features choruses from three of his affiliated organizations: the Oratorio Society of New York, the Cathedral Choirs of St. John the Divine, the Manhattan School of Music Chamber Choir.

In March 2014, the OSNY will hold its 38th annual Lyndon Woodside Oratorio Solo Competition, the only competition to focus exclusively on oratorio singing. The competition begins in late March and draws more than 100 applicants from around the world. Finals will be held on Saturday, April 5 in Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall.

Kent Tritle, one of America's leading choral conductors, is in his ninth season as Music Director of the Oratorio Society of New York. Called "the brightest star in New York's choral music world" by The New York Times, he is also Director of Cathedral Music and Organist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and Music Director of Musica Sacra, the longest continuously performing professional chorus in New York. In addition, Tritle is Director of Choral Activities at the Manhattan School of Music and is a member of the graduate faculty of The Juilliard School. He is the host of the weekly radio show "The Choral Mix with Kent Tritle," an hour-long radio program on New York's Classical 105.9 WQXR andwww.wqxr.org. An acclaimed organ virtuoso, he is also the organist of the New York Philharmonic and the American Symphony Orchestra. www.kenttritle.com

Soprano Jennifer Zetlan performs the role of Rebecca in the U.S. premiere engagement of Nico Muhly's Two Boys at the Metropolitan Opera this fall. She has also performed with the New York City Opera, Seattle Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and Florida Grand Opera, and performed the role of Zina in the world premiere of Nico Muhly's Dark Sisters with Gotham Chamber Opera and Opera Company of Philadelphia. Of a recent recital, the New York Times said, "Ms. Zetlan's finely structured, fresh and luminous voice would be enough to ensure her growing popularity on the concert stage. . . . But on Thursday she presented herself above all as a singing actress who combines a lively curiosity and playful disposition with serious attention to text." www.jenniferzetlan.com

Rising young mezzo-soprano Jennifer Feinstein has been likened by the Los Angeles Times to "a young Horne, so rich is her mezzo and so full of spark was she on stage." This season she performs with Symphoria (under Jose-Luis Novo) in Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky; in 2012-13 she was soloist in John Cage's "Solo for Voice No. 30" from Songbooks with the American Symphony Orchestra. www.jenniferfeinsteinmezzo.com

Tenor Aaron Blake, touted as "a vocal powerhouse" by the Los Angeles Times, recently made his Washington National Opera debut in their production of Anna Bolena, as well as debuts as Tamino with Opera Birmingham and as Don Ottavio with Cincinnati Opera. www.aaronblaketenor.com

Baritone Sidney Outlaw recently made his first operatic recording for Naxos Records: Milhaud's Oresteia of Aeschylus in its entirety, singing the role of Apollo. Mr. Outlaw was seen last seen with the New York Philharmonic in Dallapiccola's Il prigioniero. He was a featured recitalist with Warren Jones at Carnegie Hall and sang the title role in Mendelssohn's Elijah with the New York Choral Society. http://sidneyoutlaw.com

Bass Soloman Howard performed the title role in the premiere production of Approaching Ali this past summer with the Washington National Opera, about which the Washington Post said, "At the center of the opera was a juicy role for the accomplished young bass Soloman Howard, a Washington native who gave powerful voice to Muhammad Ali with equal parts humor and proud bluster." Howard is in his third year of WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. This season with WNO he appears as Alcade of Hornachuelos in The Force of Destiny and Sarastro in The Magic Flute, and he will also sing the role of Colline in La Bohème at Opera North Carolina. Last season at WNO he also appeared as Joe in Show Boat and Il Commendatore in Don Giovanni.

"The Oratorio Society has held the line for choral grandeur," said The New York Times of the Society's performance of Handel's Messiah at Carnegie Hall in 2008. Since its founding in 1873, the OSNY, New York's own 200-voice avocational chorus, has become the city's standard for grand, joyous choral performance. Since 2005 the chorus has been led by Music Director Kent Tritle, called "New York City's foremost choral conductor" by Time Out New York. "The sheer energy of the Society's sound had an enveloping fervor," wrote Allan Kozinn in the New York Times of a 2008 presentation of Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem; and of a 2005 performance of Messiah, Jeremy Eichler said in the Times, "this was . . . a vibrant and deeply human performance, made exciting by the sheer heft and depth of the chorus's sound."

The Oratorio Society has performed the world, U.S., or New York premieres of works as diverse as Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem (1877), Berlioz' Roméo et Juliette (1882), a full-concert production of Wagner's Parsifal at the Metropolitan Opera House (1886), Tchaikovsky's a cappellaLegend and Pater noster (1891) and Eugene Onegin (1908), the now-standard version of The Star Spangled Banner (1917; it became the national anthem in 1931), Bach's B-minor Mass (1927), Dvoràk's St. Ludmila (1993), Britten's The World of the Spirit (1998), Juraj Filas' Song of Solomon(2012), and Paul Moravec's Blizzard Voices (2013), as well as works by Handel, Liszt, Schütz, Schubert, Debussy, Elgar, and Saint Saëns, among others. On its 100th anniversary the Oratorio Society received the Handel Medallion, New York City's highest cultural award, in recognition of these contributions. www.oratoriosocietyofny.org