Anna Hamre and her Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale have long been an integral part of the Fresno Philharmonic family, joining the orchestra in at least one concert a season. But as usual in the classical music world, Hamre has always prepared her singers in rehearsal and then let the orchestra’s conductor lead them along with the instrumentalists in performance.
This weekend, though, is a milestone for Hamre: It will be the first time she conducts the orchestra in a major work.
That work is George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah,” a sure signal that the holiday season is underway. The two performances at Shaghoian Hall are among my top arts picks for the week.
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The event: Hamre will conduct Handel’s “Messiah” in a rarely heard version using orchestrations adapted by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 50 years after the piece was published.
The draw: For years, Hamre says, the trend has been to try to “re-create” the original “Messiah” as close to what Handel intended. “However, less than 50 years after its premiere in Dublin, Mozart was adapting it, and I suspect that the Mozart version has had much broader play than Handel’s original did,” Hamre says. “This is a great opportunity to delve into that.”
The soloists: The chorus will be joined by Lindsay Ohse, soprano; Sarah Larsen, mezzo-soprano; Jonathan Smucker, tenor; and Eugene Brancoveanu, baritone.
The appeal: “Without a doubt, it is a fabulous piece of music,” Hamre says. “The emotional heft of its organization is matched by intellectual content. When combined with the traditions of holiday season performance, it becomes a transformational experience.”
More online: In this extended interview, Hamre talks about her “Messiah” musical pet peeve, more about the piece’s history and gives an update on new things happening with the chorus.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, Shaghoian Hall, 2770 E. International Ave. www.fresnophil.org, 559-261-0600. $25-$79.
The draw: Tsopelas has toured many other European countries as well as the United States where she has performed in such venues as Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. Her Fresno program includes works by Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt and Manos Hadjidakis. “This is the first time, at least in the 25 years that I have been directing the series, that we are presenting an artist from Greece, so we are very excited,” says Andreas Werz, artistic director of the series.
Details: 8 p.m. Friday, Fresno State Concert Hall. www.keyboardconcerts.com, 559-278-2337, $25, $18 seniors, $5 students.
The draw: The opera is based on a Mexican folktale about poinsettias at Christmas time. It was commissioned by Fresno State professor Anthony Radford and supported by a grant from the Central Valley Community Foundation. It combines Mexican folk melodies with traditional Christmas carols sung by bilingual Fresno State students. The production is mostly sung in English with some Spanish, and will be performed more than a dozen times throughout the region this fall.
Details: This week’s schedule includes 9 and 10:30 a.m. performances Thursday and Friday at the Selma Arts Center, 1935 High St., Selma; and 1 and 2 p.m. Saturday at the Woodward Park Regional Library, 944 E. Perrin Ave. Admission is free.