Salient: Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Vol. 24, No. 11. 1961
Oratorio — Elijah
Oratorio — Elijah
Mendelssohn's magnificent oratorio "Elijah" was presented recently in Wellington to a disappointingly small audience. Those who attended were admirably rewarded by a fine performance.
The large choir was full and rich In tone and only the tenors appeared not to be quite so prominent as they might be. This, however, is more than likely the in evitable result of the universal shortage of tenor voices. The bass part came through very well and lent the necessary weight and force to. such choruses as "Baal, we cry to thee" and "Behold! God the Lord past by!" On the whole the diction of the choirs was poor and anyone hearing the oratorio for the first time without the aid of a programme would find it very hard to follow. Fortunately this oratorio. depends very much more on the sound than on the words so that this fault did not very greatly hinder the enjoyment of the performance.
Outstanding among the soloists was the bass, Charles Naylor, who sang the exacting part of Elijah. I have only once previously had the pleasure of hearing Rev. Naylor and my high regard for his ability then was greatly enhanced on this occasion. He is a singer who has much sincerity in his voice.
Although the oratorio does not offer very much scope for the contralto voice, we heard enough of the Australian, Lauris Elms, to want to hear more. She seems to have an almost perfect contralto voice and it seems to have a beautiful richness about it.
Soprano Elizabeth Hellawell and the tenor, Noel Signal, sang their parts well but lacked the polish and finish of the other two main soloists.
The advantage of an orchestra of the calibre of the National Orchestra in a work of this kind was very obvious. Without them the oratorio would lose its meaning. The orchestra's part is by no means a secondary one but at no time did the orchestra tend to drown the voices.
The overall success of the performance was due to the sympathetic interpretation by the conductor, John Hopkins. Mention must also be made of the chorus-masters, Eric Copperwheat and Malcolm Rickard, whose mammoth task included the assembly and rehearsing of the huge choir.
No performance of any kind, however, can be completely successful unless the audience enters into the spirit of the work being performed. A half-empty Town Hall cannot really achieve this degree of audience participation. Chances are few for hearing a performance like this, outside the main centres there are no opportunities to hear oratorio as it is meant to be heard. I appeal to the students of our University, particularly those whose homes are away from Wellington, to support such enterprises by attending—they will not be disappointed.—D.M.E.