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'MESSIAH' AS NEVER BEFORE

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HOWARD SMITH describes Lygia O'Riordan's quest
to bring Handel's masterpiece to Eastern Russia

 

In 2001, when conductor Lygia O'Riordan hit on the idea of bringing the first ever Messiah to Eastern Russia she could never have imagined the formidable task her bold plan would entail.

Handel's surpassing oratorio had its first performance in Dublin 261 years ago. Since then, year in and year out, it has been presented, and continues to be heard, innumerable times in countless places across the globe.

Yet east of the Urals it remained unknown. Handel's musical idioms were foreign throughout Czarist and Communist Russia. Inhabitants of the steppe, the tundra, the desolate plains and broad river valleys knew nothing of the inspired biblical setting with its hope of life eternal.

An ecological paradise: Sakhalin, beside the Sea of Okhotsk. © 2003 Howard Smith
An ecological paradise: Sakhalin, beside the Sea of Okhotsk. © 2003 Howard Smith

For her part Ms O'Riordan could not have forseen the calamitous human tragedy that would devastate oil-rich Sakhalin Island where Handel's masterpiece was to be performed.

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Copyright © 27 November 2003 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand

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