Estonian National Opera soloists, chorus, orchestra and boys’ choir will give its traditional holiday season’s concert, featuring Mozart’s motet “Exsultate, jubilate” K 165 and Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Christmas Oratorio” Op. 12.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote the motet “Exsultate, jubilate”, K 165 at the age of sixteen after the premiere of his seventh opera “Lucio Silla” at the Regio Ducal Teatro Milano in 1772. The astonishing voice of the famous castrato Venezio Rauzzini, who sang the part of Cecillo, made such an impression on the young composer that he wrote the motet, keeping in mind the vocal abilities of Rauzzini. The florid coloratura style of the piece and the demands that it puts forward to the virtuosity of the singer give us a hint of the quality of Rauzzini’s voice. “Exsultate jubilate” was given a soulful premiere by Rauzzini on January 17, 1773 in the Church of San Antonio in Milan. In this work Mozart combines the aria and recitative style of opera seria with the three-part form (fast, slow, fast) of the Italian symphony. The result is a miniature vocal concerto in three movements.
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921) was one of the most productive and famous French composers of the nineteenth century. Saint-Saëns’s “Oratorio de Noël” or “Christmas Oratorio” was written in 1858, when the composer was 23. An oratorio is to all intents and purposes an opera on a religious subject. Oratorio differs from opera in that it has no acting, scenery, or costumes. During the Baroque period in opera-crazed Italy, oratorios were performed as an entertainment substituting for opera during Lent, a season of abstinence from opera as well as other worldly diversions.
The “Christmas Oratorio” opens with a Prelude subtitled “In the style of Sebastian Bach” harkening back to Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio”. This opening prelude sets the scene for the Christmas story: its pastoral quality creates images of the shepherds tending their flocks in the fields. In the remaining movements, the vocal soloists take turns representing different characters such as the narrator of the story or as the angel who announces the birth of the baby Jesus, while the chorus represents a multitude of angels singing to the glory of the Lord (2nd movement: recitative and chorus). For the Quintet and Chorus (9th movement), Saint-Saëns uses the melody from the prelude to begin drawing the work to a close. The final movement of the piece, which follows the model of old French Christmas songs, is a virtual hymn of praise of all creation in the presence of God.