Debut tour of fully staged American Opera Theatre production of Handel's Messiah to feature Virginia Tech Chamber Singers

BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 5, 2007 – Virginia Tech's Department of Music Chamber Singers under the direction of Brian Gendron, director of choral activities at Virginia Tech, will perform with the American Opera Theater (AOT) in its premier tour of the first United States, fully-staged production of Handel's Messiah on Monday, Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lyric Theatre in downtown Blacksburg.

This performance is part of the 2007/2008 University Chamber Music Series.

American Opera Theater director Timothy Nelson will conduct AOT’s Ignoti Dei Orchestra in the original 1742 orchestration for strings and trumpets. Featured soloists will be sopranos Sherezade Panthaki and Bonnie McNaughton, mezzo-soprano Kristen Dubenion-Smith, tenor Aaron Sheehan and bass-baritone David Newman.

This AOT production of Handel’s masterpiece also features lighting design by Kel Millionie whose work The Baltimore Sun describes as, “pure visual poetry,” “stirring,” and “atmospheric.”

Promising to be one of this holiday season’s most unique and provocative performances, the American Opera Theater’s production of Handel’s Messiah captures the essence of the powerful work, blurring the lines between concert, theater and ritual.

AOT's Messiah will be unlike any performance of the work audiences have ever experienced. It takes the work’s focus beyond Christian understanding of Old Testament prophesies, and the celebration of birth, death and resurrection, to explore the human side of Handel’s masterpiece, the questions of what it means to be a human-being at the beginning of the new millennium – exploring the struggle and redemption of mankind.

Nelson says of the new production, “Handel’s Messiah is perhaps the most entrenched western musical tradition. It is only with reverence and respect for that tradition that I put this work onto the stage. Certainly outside the realm of composer’s intentions, Handel’s score and Jennings’ selection of sacred texts here become a canvas on which we paint an ecumenical portrait of human struggle and redemption, in an abstract dramatic style that is at once ritual and theater.”

Born and raised in Christiansburg, Va., Timothy Nelson leads a new generation of young directors. In 2002, he founded the American Opera Theater, formerly the Ignoti Dei Opera, an ensemble incorporating his interests in movement, music, and design and one that challenges audiences' ideas about opera as theater. Nelson has become known for innovative productions of traditional repertoire, rarely heard works of both opera and theater, and for the creation of new concept works.

The Virginia Tech Chamber Singers is a select mixed ensemble that performs choral literature from the Renaissance and Baroque, as well as contemporary works. This ensemble has been featured at conventions of the Virginia Music Teachers Association, Virginia Music Educators Association, and American Choral Directors Association.

Tickets are $15 for general, $10 for seniors and $5 for students and are available at the UUSA Box Office in the Virginia Tech Squires Student Center located on College Avenue adjacent to downtown Blacksburg at (540) 231-5685.