In a recent trip to the chorus rehearsal room of First Presbyterian Church, in the Houston Museum District, I had the distinct privilege of previewing the Houston Masterworks Chorus's upcoming performance of Mendelsohn’s Elijah. The concert, this Sunday, April 22nd (see event listing below), features the tour-de-force masterworks chorus and several sololists from our very own Rice University.
As the chorus began their warmups, I began to think of the best way to introduce Mendelsohn’s Elijah to you. Obviously, if I had the opportunity, it would be pre-show over delicious drinks at Lucille's, but maybe we can just pretend we are there for a moment (..and do not worry I will get to those cocktails later.)
May I present to you,
the "No-frills guide to Elijah"
(with help from my friends at the NY Phil.)
Elijah is an oratorio written by Felix Mendelssohn.
It was premiered in 1846 at the Birmingham Festival.
Elijah: The prophet who “enters heaven by fire”... amongst other things.
The oratorio begins as King Ahab of Israel (circa 9th century BCE) has just decided his people need to worship the “God of Baal” instead of our friendly neighbor, the “God of Abraham.” Naturally, Elijah makes the prophecy that this is no-bueno and someone (probs. King Ahab) is going to see punishment for this… Fast-Forward a bit and low-and-behold, that punishment has arrived! Ahab’s people are left starving from a drought, literally begging for mercy. So, they repent to the faithful believer Obadiah.
Elijah eventually comes across Ahab once more (coincidence? I think not!) Ahab blames Elijah for the drought (because you know he’s the one who prophesied it after all…. NO Ahab things do not work that way…) and Elijah shows everybody who the real boss is by praying that God (Abraham, not Baal) may “light the fire under a sacrifice”. *BOOM* it works and fire descends from the heavens. Some other bloody stuff happens, but basically, Elijah goes on to pray for rain and the people survive.
Still with me? Good.
The oratorio continues as Elijah confronts Ahab (Here again? Really?) BUT Queen Jezebel arrives, pissed that Elijah just made their people rise up and destroy the priesthood of Baal (insert the bloody part I left out earlier), so Elijah says “peace out” and heads for the Desert. Tired and Thirsty, he is comforted by Angels who bring him to Mount Horeb. Here, Elijah’s faith in God is restored and he realizes it’s time to head back to Israel to continue his holy work. In the end *spoiler alert* Elijah passes from the world to heaven via a “fiery chariot.”
While the story of Elijah is dramatic in itself, Mendelsohn has provided us with a musical score that elevates the text beyond our wildest dreams. With arias, orchestral masterpieces, and massive choruses, this piece is truly a work of biblical proportions. One that is not to be missed!
Now, let's get to those cocktails!
Pre-Show I highly recommend you head over to Lucille's for their fabulous brunch, avec Mimosa's and Bloody Mary's! It is a gem of a restaurant found hidden within our charming museum district and the perfect compliment to a day with the Houston Masterworks Chorus!
Until next time, I will catch y'all for Cocktails at Intermission!