By Douglas Neslund
Maestro Grant Gershon and the “full call” Master Chorale opened the 51st Season with a sensational gamble: a performance of Richard Einhorn’s musical setting, “Voices of Light,” to a 1927 silent movie by Carl Dryer entitled “The Passion of Joan of Arc” projected above the Chorale, Orchestra, and five soloists.
Einhorn’s score is not so tightly wedded to the film that it cannot be performed without it. On this night, the composer was present, and enjoyed prolonged applause and appreciation from the audience.
It is understatement to say the film is enhanced by the music. Indeed, without it, such a movie with its überdramatic focus on Joan’s face in all of its possible facets of pain and suffering made it difficult to watch.
Actress Renée Jeanne Falconetti demonstrated the narrow range of emotions of a naïve young woman put through intense questioning by a “court” of sorts by leering priests, lawyers and others who clearly relished the torture, up to and including her death by immolation. The camera spent a lot of time transmitting Joan’s unrelenting emotional turmoil in close-ups that, as the film approached its dénouement, was finally too much and averting eyes were not uncommon in the large audience.
Musically, Einhorn’s composition is well-crafted, focused and displays the composer’s fine sense of the dramatic. The solo work, vocally and instrumentally, was excellent, most notably by Concertmaster Roger Wilkie’s violin and John Walz’s ‘cello contributions. The five vocalists included sopranos Hayden Eberhart and Claire Fedoruk, mezzo-soprano Adriana Manfredi, tenor Daniel Chaney and baritone Abdiel Gonzalez. Mr. Cheney’s voice has gained an extra measure of empathy since last heard, that fits his assignments here to a particularly fine and effective degree.
The Master Chorale performed at its usual first-rate level, responding to Maestro Gershon’s every request as they worked through the Latin and French libretto.
Images courtesy of Richard Einhorn @ richardeinhorn.com