Handel's Glorious Messiah
A beloved holiday tradition, Handel’s celebrated oratorio — with its blazing trumpets, thundering timpani and spectacular “Hallelujah!” chorus — provides a moment during the busy season to experience reflection, renewal and joy.
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Christopher Warren-Green, conductor
Klara Ek, soprano
David Trudgen, counter-tenor
Nicky Spence, tenor
Daniel Okulitch, bass-baritone
Pacific Chorale — Robert Istad, artistic director
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Messiah, HWV 56
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Recitative: Comfort ye my people
Aria: Ev’ry valley shall be exalted
Chorus: And the glory of the Lord
Recitative: Thus saith the Lord
Aria: But who may abide the day of His coming?
Chorus: And He shall purify
Recitative: Behold, a virgin shall conceive
Aria & Chorus: O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion
Recitative: For behold, darkness shall cover the earth
Aria: The people that walked in darkness
Chorus: For unto us a Child is born
Pifa “Pastoral Symphony”
Recitative: There were shepherds abiding in the field
Recitative: And lo! The angel of the Lord came upon them
Recitative: And the angel said unto them
Recitative: And suddenly there was with the Angel
Chorus: Glory to God
Aria: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion
Recitative: Then shall the eyes of the blind
Duet: He shall feed His flock
Chorus: His yoke is easy, His burthen is light
Chorus: Behold the Lamb of God
Aria: He was despised
Chorus: Surely He hath borne our griefs
Chorus: And with His stripes we are healed
Chorus: All we like sheep have gone astray
Recitative: All they that see Him
Chorus: He trusted in God
Recitative: Thy rebuke hath broken His heart
Aria: Behold, and see if there be any sorrow
Recitative: He was cut off out of the land of the living
Aria: But thou didst not leave His soul
Chorus: Lift up your heads, O ye gates
Chorus: The Lord gave the word
Aria: How beautiful are the feet
Chorus: Their sound is gone out
Aria: Why do the nations so furiously rage together?
Chorus: Let us break their bonds asunder
Recitative: He that dwelleth in Heaven
Aria: Thou shalt break them
Aria: I know that my Redeemer liveth
Chorus: Since by man came death
Recitative: Behold, I tell you a mystery
Aria: The trumpet shall sound
Chorus: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain – Amen
Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel
GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL:
Master of both sacred and secular music, Handel was born in 1685, at the height of the Baroque era. He was a native of Germany, but his early travels included Italy, where he assimilated the Italian styles of operatic composition before settling in England.
Successful in all vocal and instrumental music forms, he was the English court’s go-to composer for the nation’s most important ceremonial music. His gifts seem to converge in Messiah, with its endlessly expressive melodies and towering drama so perfectly suited to expressing the story and the glory of Christ’s birth.
Although Messiah was originally composed for performance during Lent, it has been universally adopted as a musical high point of the Advent season. For Handel himself and for millions of listeners it is not only a thrilling entertainment but also a deep expression of religious faith that sounds new no matter how often it is heard.
Handel famously described the process of composing the “Hallelujah” chorus as the heavens opening up to him. Yet Messiah was also a commercial imperative for him. He composed it at a time when he was in need of a major success: He had enjoyed a hugely successful run writing and producing his own operas, but the public taste for his operas was fading.
Having already written operas on sacred themes, he turned to the unstaged oratorio form. Messiah is the foremost example of what became known as the English oratorio, which combines religious texts with elements of intense drama, sometimes in ways hard to distinguish from opera. Most of them combine biblical and non-biblical texts, though Messiah is drawn entirely from the Bible.
Composition of Messiah was completed within 24 days, a breakneck pace for so expansive a work. The text was provided by Charles Jennens, drawn mainly from the biblical books of Isaiah and the gospel of St. Matthew—a selection that, according to some sources, reflected Jennens’ and possibly even Handel’s anti-establishment political leanings.
After all, who but a radical egalitarian would so potently emphasize Isaiah’s prophecy that “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low?” Still, a message of straightforward religious inspiration was overriding for Handel and remains so for his audiences.
There are many traditional accounts of seemingly divine inspiration as he worked. In one, his assistant walked into the room where he was composing after shouting to him for minutes on end with no response. He supposedly found Handel in tears, pen in hand, and asked what was wrong. “I thought I saw the face of God,” Handel said.
The immediate popularity of Handel’s Messiah made it an instant tradition in England and elsewhere, and annual performances gradually moved from Eastertide to the Christmas season. By 1784, Messiah performances at events such as the Handel Centenary Commemoration were commonplace, often drawing together huge choral and orchestral forces.
As an impresario, Handel was accustomed to tailoring his works for specific performers and production circumstances, and various editions of Messiah existed even within his lifetime. He also expected soloists to interpolate vocal ornamentations as appropriate, a practice that reappeared during the bel canto revival that began during the 1960s.
Whether you are singing along or just listening, Messiah is an experience of beauty that is deeply participative. It opens with a stately symphonia with a pace like that of a slow, halting march. This sets a tone of solemn importance that frames even the most joyful passages to come. What follows is a full afternoon’s worth of music in three sections.
In all there are more than 50 separate numbers, typically choral songs alternating with solos for individual soprano, alto, tenor or bass voice. Together they present a version of the Christian story of the messiah, or anointed one, from the annunciation and birth through the crucifixion and resurrection.
Despite the commercial considerations that were never far from Handel’s mind, Messiah is first and foremost an expression of faith. By combining majestic beauty and grandeur of scale with humble sincerity, Messiah has gained a household familiarity that is rare among classical compositions.
At the most basic level, Messiah is an adaptation in music of the biblical accounts of the birth of Christ, a religious story sung by a chorus and/or soloists accompanied by an orchestra and/or an organ. The choral forces are usually the familiar four-part SATB mix—soprano, alto, tenor, bass—that you know if you sang chorus in high school or in church.
There is also a natural comparison between this work and the large-scale oratorios of Bach, the other supreme master of the Baroque era. Like Handel, Bach was born in 1685, and both were pious men. But they approached oratorio in opposite ways: where Bach saw religion and the glory of God’s creation in every detail of daily life, Handel was a man of the world and of the theater. He enjoyed his success, wrote operas that were some of the most sensational entertainments of the day, and became one of the most famous men in Europe.
The sheer theatricality of Messiah contributed greatly to its success, and still does. Though not staged, it is religion made theater.
Its drama and beauty flow first from its beautiful melodies, which inspire us while capturing the revelatory emotions described in the text. But they also gain extraordinary intensity through the Baroque compositional technique of “word painting,” in which the flow of notes in the music actually seems to replicate a shape or contour that the notes describe.
One frequently cited example of word painting occurs early in Part I, in the tenor aria “Every valley shall be exalted.” On the word “mountain,” the tenor’s voice rises to a high F#, creating a literal peak of sound; then it drops by an octave, showing how the mountain is made low. On “crooked,” the melodic line vacillates between the jagged C# and the straight B, coming to rest on the straight B. Similarly, the word “exalted” is raised up by an octave in its final syllable.
Messiah teems with effects like these, which deepen our experience of the text with almost palpable realism. For example, slightly later in Part I, in the chorus “And He shall purify,” note the way the articulations on the word “purify” leap like the flames of the refiner’s fire in the text. The effect of word painting can even focus on a single syllable—as when, two choruses later in “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion,” the alto soloist leaps up a fourth on the word up: “get thee up unto the high mountains.”
For many listeners, a climactic and favorite painterly effect is the heavenly fluttering of wings when angels appear to the shepherds by night, as conveyed by arpeggios in the strings: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying …”
This moment, which forms a dramatic climax about two-thirds of the way through Part I, is as graphic and immediate as a movie; think of Handel’s score as the CGI of its day.
For all of its vividness, Handel’s mastery of word painting accounts for just part of the dramatic impact of Messiah. It combines with his gift for melody and a sympathetic understanding of psychology that appeals to us in a way that is less literal, but more deeply human. When we hear the soprano soloist singing “Come unto Him, all ye that … are heavy laden,” who can fail to take comfort at the tenderness of her vocal line?
Equally intense are the passages of joyful anticipation and of triumph, as in the prophecy expressed in “For unto Us” and in the glorious “Hallelujah” chorus, which so overwhelmed Handel’s contemporary audiences that, we are told, they spontaneously rose to their feet in awe—a tradition that persists to this day in many parts of the world.
Today, there is no definitive performing edition or single “correct” approach to performing Messiah, and every conductor who leads it must make critical decisions in order to do so. But those decisions are informed by the living traditions that we all enjoy as listeners, and by the work of Handel scholars and performers.
For example, the soprano aria “Rejoice greatly” exists in both 4/4 and 6/8 tempos, each with its own unique appeal; the 4/4 version is graceful and dignified, while the 6/8 version dances with joy.
One more small point: why throughout this note do I refer to the oratorio as Messiah? Is the title not “The Messiah”?
Scholars agree that the original designation was simply Messiah, and this title is considered historically accurate. But over the many generations that it has been performed, many published versions of the score—including the one in my own music library—are marked “The Messiah” on the title page. Then again, in conversation and in print, “Handel’s Messiah” is a common reference. Take your pick; all of these usages are acceptable, and none will ever be mistaken for any other work.
Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor‑in‑chief for The Santa Fe Opera.
Choir of King's College, Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury
Christopher Warren-Green is music director of the Charlotte Symphony in North Carolina and music director and Principal Conductor of the London Chamber Orchestra. Working extensively in the U.S., key North American engagements have included The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Detroit, St. Louis, Toronto, Milwaukee, Seattle and Vancouver symphony orchestras and the National Symphony Orchestra Washington, D.C. He also regularly works with the Minnesota Orchestra, and of recent performances of Handel’s Messiah with Houston Symphony, the Houston Chronicle noted that he conducted the performances “with relish … I’ve rarely heard the story of Jesus’ advent, suffering and victory told so vividly.”
Previous seasons have seen Warren- Green at the helm of the Philharmonia, London Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Royal Scottish National orchestras, and the NHK, Singapore, Sapporo and KBS symphony orchestras. He has also conducted BBC Concert Orchestra and Royal Northern Sinfonia, as well as Sinfonia Varsovia for a commemorative concert in celebration of Yehudi Menuhin. Other collaborations include a tour of Japan with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, and concerts with Zürcher Kammerorchester, RTÉ Symphony Orchestra and Iceland Symphony Orchestra.
Dedicated to the promotion of new works and passionate about music education, Warren-Green plays a key role in LCO Music Junction. This ground-breaking project, which reached over 3,000 young people in the U.K. last season, brings together children in the U.K. from different backgrounds by using music as a medium to foster mutual empathy and collaboration. In November 2015, Warren-Green took the London Chamber Orchestra to Hong Kong, where local students joined the orchestra in concert.
Over the last 30 years, Warren-Green has been personally invited to conduct for the Royal Family on many occasions. In April 2005, he conducted the Service of Dedication and Prayer following the marriage of TRH the Duke and the Duchess of Cornwall. He also led the London Chamber Orchestra during the marriage ceremony of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey in 2011, which was broadcast to a global audience of two billion. Other notable occasions have included HM The Queen’s 80th birthday celebrations at Kew Palace, and with the Philharmonia Orchestra he conducted HM The Queen’s 90th birthday concert at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane as well as HRH The Prince of Wales’ 60th birthday concert in Buckingham Palace.
Warren-Green is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and has recorded extensively for Sony, Phillips, Virgin EMI, Chandos, Decca and Deutsche Grammophon. He also records with the London Chamber Orchestra for Signum Classics.
Possessing a voice of remarkable clarity and beauty Klara Ek has distinguished herself with many of the world’s leading conductors and orchestras.
Recent highlights have included Peer Gynt with the Gothenburg Symphony on tour under Alain Altinoglu, Handel’s Samson with Festival de Beaune conducted by Leonardo García Alarcón, and Schumann’s Szenen aus Goethes Faust with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Schønwandt. She made her debut on stage at Staatsoper Hamburg as Handel’s Edilia (Almira) and gave standout performances as Melia (Apollo et Hyacinthus) with Classical Opera. This season, she joins the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for Peer Gynt under Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, the Royal Northern Scottish National Orchestra for Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 under Thomas Søndergård, and Pacific Symphony for Messiah conducted by Christopher Warren- Green.
Ek is much in demand by the world’s principal early music ensembles. With the Academy of Ancient Music she has sung the roles of Oriana (Amadigi di Gaula) under Christopher Hogwood and Arminda (La finta giardiniera) under Richard Egarr, and she has collaborated with Pablo Heras-Casado and Compañía y Orquesta Barroca de Aranjuez in the first modern performance of Bonno’s L’isola disabitata. In addition with Alan Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco, she has recorded Jommelli’s Ezio, Scarlatti’s Tolomeo e Alessandro and Handel’s Berenice.
Notable symphonic debuts include Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich (all under Bernard Haitink), Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 and No. 4 with the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar and the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel, Die Schöpfung with Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra and Helmuth Rilling, Bach’s Magnificat with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Ton Koopman, and Schumann’s Szenen aus Goethes Faust with Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Christopher Hogwood. Most recently, Ek made her BBC Proms debut in Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 under Thomas Søndergård and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Hallé under Nikolaj Znaider.
The Chicago Tribune declared Canadian counter-tenor David Trudgen as “the next generation’s answer to David Daniels” for his appearance
as Medoro in Chicago Opera Theater’s production of Handel’s Orlando, conducted by Raymond Leppard. Most recently, Trudgen appeared as Goffredo in Pacific Opera Victoria’s production of Rinaldo, Bertarido in Rodelinda for VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert, as well as the workshop of Bound with Against the Grain Theatre, and he looks forward to Messiah with Pacific Symphony. Trudgen sang the title role in Michigan Opera Theatre’s production of Giulio Cesare and has also been heard in Carmina Burana with the Kingston Symphony and Victoria Symphony, Messiah for the Ann Arbor Symphony, Phoenix Symphony and the Winston-Salem Symphony; and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater in a staged presentation by the National Ballet of Canada. Further credits include his Boston Baroque debut singing Armindo in Handel’s Partenope, the title role in Orlando for Toronto’s Opera in Concert, Messiah with Chorus Niagara, Arcano in Teseo for Chicago Opera Theatre and the World Premiere of Alice in Wonderland for Opera Theatre of St. Louis. A tall, commanding figure on the stage, he made his Wexford Festival and Opera Theatre of St. Louis debuts in the world premiere of The Golden Ticket.
Additional Handel credits include Nerone in Agrippina for Boston Lyric Opera, Dardano in Amadigi di Gaula for Central City Opera, the title role in Giulio Cesare for Opera in Concert, Messiah for the Newfoundland Symphony, Edmonton Symphony and Symphony Nova Scotia and Israel in Egypt with Noel Edison and the Mendelssohn Choir. Trudgen is a graduate of the University of Michigan and holds a master’s of music in vocal performance.
Hailed by the Daily Telegraph as “a voice of real distinction,” Nicky Spence is fast emerging as “one of our brightest young tenors.” An artist of great integrity, Spence’s unique skills as a singing actor and the rare honesty in his musicianship are steadfastly earning him a place at the top of the profession.
On the opera stage, Spence created the role of Brian in the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s opera Two Boys for the English National Opera, a role he reprised for his Metropolitan Opera, New York debut in 2013. Becoming a great exponent of Janáček’s music, Spence recorded The Diary of One Who Disappeared with Julius Drake and has notably appeared in Jenůfa; Katya Kabanova and The Makropoulos Case.
In demand on the recital platform, Spence sings reguarly with the Myrthen Ensemble and enjoys collaborations with leading artists such as Malcolm Martineau, Julius Drake, Roger Vignoles, Graham Johnson, Sholto Kynoch, Iain Burnside, Simon Lepper and Joseph Middleton. His recital work brings him regularly to venues such as Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, The Purcell Room, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, 5BMF, New York and Tonhalle, Zürich. Spence has also recorded prolifically and his discography includes the forthcoming final disc of Roger Vignoles’ Strauss Song Series, French Melodié, Shakespeare settings, works by Schumann, Wolf, Britten and world premieres of Jonathan Dove, Pavel Haas, Alun Hoddinott and Mark-Anthony Turnage.
Scotland born, Spence trained at the Guildhall School and the National Opera Studio and progressed to become one of the inaugural Harewood Artists at the ENO. In 2015 he was also one of 10 artists nominated for the Times Breakthrough Award at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards celebrating the best up and coming young British talent from across the industry.
Lauded as “flat out brilliant” by Opera News, Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch is a leading interpreter of Mozart roles, most notably Don Giovanni, Almaviva and Figaro, which he has performed at New York City Opera, Teatro Colón, Los Angeles Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Moscow Philharmonic, Opera Warsaw, Vancouver Opera, Dallas Opera, New Orleans Opera, Portland Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Hawaii Opera, Manitoba Opera and Lyric Opera Kansas City. Okulitch has also equally excelled in creating leading roles in contemporary opera, most notably the roles of Ennis del Mar in Charles Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain at Teatro Real in Madrid and New York City Opera; Mark Rutland in Nico Muhly’s Marnie at English National Opera; Seth Brundle in Howard Shore’s The Fly at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and at Los Angeles Opera; Willy Wonka in Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket at Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Atlanta Opera; LBJ in JFK with Fort Worth Opera and Opera de Montreal; and Herman Broder in Ben Moore’s Enemies, A Love Story at Palm Beach Opera.
Okulitch’s career first garnered national attention in the role of Schaunard in the original cast of Baz Luhrmann’s Tony Award- winning Broadway production of La bohème. Other career highlights include his Teatro alla Scala debut as Theseus in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; his Washington National Opera debut in the role of Swallow in Peter Grimes, which he also performed at La Scala; Creonte in Médée with Opera Genève; his return to Vancouver Opera as Joseph De Rocher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking; and his role debut as Leporello in Don Giovanni at Opéra de Montréal.
Okulitch is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including first prize from the George London Foundation, the Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation, and the Sullivan Foundation, and second prize from the Licia Albanese/Puccini Foundation Competition. He was a previous regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Grand Council Auditions and additionally has received grants from the Singers Development Fund and from the Canada Council for Professional Musicians, as well as received the Andrew White Memorial Award and a Corbett Award.
Robert Istad is artistic director of Pacific Chorale and director of choral studies at California State University, Fullerton.
He regularly conducts and collaborates with Pacific Chorale, Pacific Symphony, Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra, Sony Classical Records, Yarlung Records, Berkshire Choral International and Long Beach Symphony Orchestra. He is also Dean of Chorus America’s national Academy for Conductors.
Istad has prepared choruses for a number of America’s finest conductors and orchestras, including: Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony, as well as conductors Esa–Pekka Salonen, Keith Lockhart, Nicholas McGegan, Vasilly Sinaisky, Sir Andrew Davis, Bramwell Tovey, John Williams, Eugene Kohn, Eric Whitacre, Giancarlo Guerrero, Marin Alsop, George Fenton and Robert Moody.
Recently, he and the University Singers performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Andrea Bocelli, Kathleen Battle, recorded albums with Yarlung Records and with composer John Williams and Sony Classical.
Istad is president of the California Choral Director’s Association, and is in demand as an adjudicator, guest conductor, speaker and clinician throughout the nation.
Singer, conductor, and educator Nate Widelitz has performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Singapore’s Esplanade and Osaka’s Izumi Hall under the batons of Gustavo Dudamel, Franz Welser-Möst, Nicholas McGegan, Masaaki Suzuki and Helmuth Rilling. He has collaborated with Bach Collegium Japan, the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras and the Cleveland Orchestra and Grammy Award-winning artists such as Kelley O’Connor, Max van Egmond and Ingrid Michaelson.
Recent milestones include Widelitz’s appointments, in 2017, as assistant conductor of Pacific Chorale and a faculty member at California State University, Los Angeles, his solo singing debut at Disney Hall with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and his debut on the podium with an all- professional ensemble as guest director of the Horizon Chamber Choir. 2018 will see Widelitz assume direction of the Collegiate Chorale at Mt. San Antonio College and the Philharmonic Choir at Los Angeles Valley College, make his conducting debut with Pacific Chorale at Segerstrom Concert Hall and begin his appointment as a faculty member at Pierce College.
Holding degrees in vocal arts from the University of Southern California and choral conducting from Yale University, Widelitz spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he conducted research and authored a thesis on the women’s dvuglas music of the Shopski Kray region. He has since taught music at every level from fourth grade through college, led choirs on tours of Italy and Austria and sung professionally as a soloist in New York, San Francisco, Hartford and Los Angeles.
Lori Loftus, the founding director of the Southern California Children’s Chorus (SCCC), is a familiar figure in the music world. She has performed on keyboard instruments with Pacific Symphony and the Pacific Chorale since 1978, and has been the featured artist on the great William J. Gillespie organ at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall on many occasions. Her abilities as a children’s choral conductor have taken her around the world, conducting performances and leading workshops. She has also served as an accompanist and keyboard performer under the baton of many of the world’s most- renowned choral and orchestral conductors.
In March 2007, Loftus was honored for a lifetime of achievements with the Outstanding Alumni Award for Excellence in Choral Music from her alma mater, California State University, Fullerton. “Miss Lori” continues to bring intense and quality education to hundreds of young singers. Many graduates of SCCC have remained active in the arts and music as vocalists, conductors, managers and patrons.
Passion for people and for music fuels Loftus’ accomplishments in many other areas of her life. With three children out of the nest, Loftus resides with her husband John in Newport Beach with two entertaining cats and their tropical fish. They are the busy grandparents of three little girls. Loftus’ favorite moments are when she is working with children, performing music, enjoying her family or playing a fine round of golf.
Michael Leopold holds both an undergraduate degree in music and a master’s degree in historical plucked instruments from American Universities as well as a degree in lute and theorbo from L’Istituto di Musica Antica of the Accademia Internazionale della Musica in Milan, Italy. Originally from Northern California and after living 16 years in Italy and 5 years in Canada, he now resides in the U.S. He has performed both as a soloist and as an accompanist throughout Europe, Australia, Japan, South America, Mexico and the United States. Leopold has played with a number of leading Italian early music groups, including Concerto Italiano, La Risonanza, La Venexiana and La Pietà de’ Turchini and several American period-instrument ensembles. He has also collaborated with several orchestras and opera companies, including Orchestra Verdi di Milano, Opera Australia, San Francisco Opera, Barcelona Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Gulbenkian Mùsica, Houston Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Nashville Symphony and Portland Opera. His performances in operas have been noted in various reviews: “Leopold was a standout on theorbo, providing some of the most sensitive and heartfelt musical moments of the evening,” “High marks especially to the marvelous theorbo, lute and baroque guitar specialist, Michael Leopold, whose recitatives added dazzling color.” He can be heard in recordings on the Stradivarius, Glossa, Naïve, Avie and Naxos labels.