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The Creation 216 years since it brought fame to its composer

The Creation 216 years since it brought fame to its composer

One of history’s most famous composers, Joseph Haydn, once confessed, “I want to write a work that will give permanent fame to my name in the world”.

The Creation is this work. First performed in 1798, it was an immediate success with both the nobility and the public. If it was released today, it would reach the equivalent level of success as an enduring Number One hit. Haydn was a recognised celebrity.

Although the premiere was by invitation only, swarms of people crowded the streets surrounding Vienna’s Schwarzenberg Palace and police were needed to control the crowds. Someone lucky enough to make it inside recalled the performance:

For the life of me, I would not have believed that human lungs and sheep gut and calf’s skin [instrument materials] could create such miracles. The music, all by itself, described thunder and lightning, and then you would have heard the rain falling and the water rushing and the birds singing and the lion roaring, and you could even hear the worms crawling along the ground. In short, I never left a theatre more contented, and all night I dreamed of the creation of the world.

The first public performance in 1799 sold out well in advance and demand for this great work meant that it was performed almost 40 times in Vienna alone, and internationally in England, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, and the United States.

Almost the length of a modern day feature film, The Creation was a mighty artistic task. Following its premiere, Haydn descended into a state of exhaustion saying, “I spent much time over it because I expect it to last a long time”. It is the perfect musical recipe – a cast of well-known vocal soloists, full four-part choir and the large-scale forces of a Classical orchestra. As Haydn intended, it has remained one of the most famous musical works in the classical repertoire, cementing his reputation for all time.

The Creation celebrates the miracle of being alive, taking inspiration from The Bible’s The Book of Genesis and English poet John Milton’s canonic work Paradise Lost. This sensational three-part oratorio tells the ultimate story of chaos giving way to a new paradise of insects, plants, animals and humanity. The music shimmers with light and is irresistibly uplifting.

With renowned early music specialist Nicholas McGegan leading the NZSO, this Creation will be a lasting memory. Last year, McGegan toured with the NZSO to conduct Magnificent Mozart and in 2006 he debuted with the Orchestra for the popular Mozart Festival. He is Music Director of San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, the foremost period ensemble in the United States, and he’s in demand as a guest conductor by prestigious international orchestras like the Concertgebouw and Chicago Symphony.

It’s always special when the national orchestra reunites home audiences with critically-acclaimed Kiwi singers working abroad. This tour we welcome back Napier-born soprano Madeleine Pierard (2005 Lexus Song Quest winner) and Dunedin-born, bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu (1998 Mobil Song Quest winner). You’ll also experience fast-rising Irish tenor Robin Tritschler, who made his Royal Opera debut in London earlier this season. Each singer represents an angel who narrates and comments on the successive days of creation - Gabriel (soprano), Uriel (tenor) and Raphael (bass).

Monumental choruses will break through from Auckland Choral, City Choir Dunedin and the Orpheus Choir of Wellington, each of which performs in their home centres, with the libretto sung in English.

Share the joy with your home choir, three star singers, a revered UK conductor, and your national orchestra at The Creation, in association with ANZ Private.

Haydn captured the unbridled joy of living in The Creation and you can hear it in every triumphant note.

…in the hands of one of the really great men of music and his ability to move from one lovely idea to another… there’s a joy and exuberance in it and a beauty which is irresistable for me.
Sir Colin Davis


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