The weather outside was cool and foggy, but the ambient feeling of heightened anticipation was considerably warmer as those arriving to attend the opening night of Carmel Bach Festival 2019 were offered complimentary wine, treated to a free pre-concert lecture by Karen Hiles and invited to mingle in the courtyard and terraces of Sunset Center to enjoy the traditional “Tower Music” that has been a much-enjoyed and festive pre-concert event for so many years.
Although the Carmel Bach Festival may have teased us with three pre-festival events earlier in the week: two vocal master class open sessions at First Presbyterian Church, a chamber concert at St. Dunstan’s and an annual gala dinner at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, the Carmel Bach Festival 2019 officially opened Saturday night at Sunset Center with a performance of Haydn’s great masterpiece, “The Creation.”
I can’t speak for other members of the audience, but previously I had only known recorded performances of Haydn’s masterpiece, so the experience of hearing this work in a live performance was a glorious and moving event. It was a profoundly satisfying performance of “The Creation” we heard last night at Sunset Center by the Festival Orchestra, chorus and soloists under the direction of maestro Paul Goodwin. Festival soloists — soprano Mhairi Lawson, tenor Thomas Cooley, baritone Dashon Burton and mezzo-soprano Alyson Harvey — were impressive in their commanding and expressive performances. We look forward with great anticipation to their subsequent appearances during the remainder of the festival.
Once heard, one can never forget the intense opening five minutes of Haydn’s masterpiece depicting the chaos that preceded the Old Testament’s account of the creation of the universe. At the dramatic moment of “Let there be light,” the audience was dazzled by a blast from a row of lights at the back of Sunset Center’s stage.
Seated in Row Y below the under-hang of the balcony, it was at times difficult to understand the English text (plus we seniors tend to lose some of our aural acuity). Accordingly, David Gordon’s supertitles truly enhanced the performance and were one more instance of a need to acknowledge that even in his absence from this year’s festival, David Gordon’s spirit remains with us.
Although I arrived too late to hear the pre-concert lecture by Karen Hiles, speaking with people on the terrace while enjoying a sample of the pre-concert complimentary wine, several people chided me for missing the lecture. Ms. Hiles, I was told, had given an entertaining and informative lecture that in its own way became a very satisfying continuation of the magnificent pre-concert lectures we have enjoyed from Mr. Gordon for the past thirty years.