Although Berlioz was quick and harsh in judgement, he wrote: “I recently experienced a great musical emotion on hearing Mendelssohn’s Elijah. It is magnificently grand, and indescribably sumptuous in harmony”. Mendelssohn wrote Elijah in 1846, ten years after the rousing success of St. Paul, his first oratorio. He pictured Elias “as a thorough prophet, such as we might again require in our own day – energetic and zealous, but also stern, wrathful, and gloomy; a striking contrast to the court rabble and popular rabble – in fact, in opposition to the whole world, and yet borne on angels’ wings.” St. Paul and Elijah respond to one another, with their portraying of the perpetual people, embodied in this version by the choir and orchestra. Elijah is probably the opera Mendelssohn has never composed, with its fitting theatrical power. Calixto Bieito directed it at the Theater an der Wien. The piece is now ready to premiere in France in this brand-new form, with Constantin Trinks as musical director.
Libretto by the composer
Excerpts from the Old Testament, collected and adapted by Julius Schubring
First performed in Birmingham in 1846
Production Theater an der Wien
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