SACRED OPERA, ELIJAH THRILLS BIG AUDIENCE
MacMillan Conducts Mendelssohn Music Drama With His Own Orchestra
By AUGUSTUS BRIDLE
Sir Ernest MacMillan conducted his first performance of Mendelssohn's "Elijah" last night in Massey Hall with the Conservatory Choir, Toronto Symphony, and a pipeless organ.
Those who heard the magnificent production were reminded what a wonderful opera this Bible story is; more dramatic than "Samson and Delilah."
Only about half an hour is straight religious music. The rest is the prodigious contest between Elijah, Ahab, Jezebel, the Israelites and the priests of Baal; the marvellous scene of the fire that Baal failed to deliver, the bloody revenge of Elijah on the Baalites, the drought, the cloud, the storm, the ascent of Elijah in a chariot of fire; all as picturesque as Wagner's "Valkyrie."
The chorus, in casual colors, gave it a semi-operatic tone. Fred Silvester at the console brought the organ in to build up the wind-section of the orchestra on extra climaxes. Eileen Law sang with more than her customary serene beauty of contralto style -- especially good on "O Rest in the Lord," which has never been done here with more tender pathos of superb vocalism. Jeanne Pengelly has sung in several operas; never with more magnetic brilliance than in her many oratorio arias, most exultingly triumphant of which was "Hear Ye, Israel." Hubert Eisdell, famous here as a classic singer and Bach Passion narrator, was devoutly lyric in "If with all your hearts." The visiting baritone, Glenn Darwin, did noble, declamatory work, especially good in "It is enough," not quite basso enough in "The hammer that striketh the rock." Trevor Self, son of William Self, Toronto tenor, sang with expressive treble tone the dramatic dialogue of the Youth with Elijah.
The biggest sensation was the choir, in a great scenario of choruses. The semi-choruses were beautiful; the trio, lovely; the quartet almost perfect; the unaccompanied chorus, "Holy, holy," exquisitely atmospheric.
The conductor's vivid interpretation was what one would expect from one who began to study music when Torrington was at his height of oratorio here.
Many choirmasters heard the work; all were delighted.
The orchestra was superb.