Bach Collegium San Diego Commissions World Premiere of the Complete Handel’s Messiah in Spanish

Bach Collegium San Diego Commissions World Premiere of the Complete Handel’s Messiah in Spanish
“El Mesías: Messiah for a New World” Slated for Spring 2022
Binational, Cross-Border, Bilingual Project to Feature Spanish-Speaking Soloists, Performance in Mexico 
For immediate release: April 13, 2021
Contact: Stephanie Thompson Communications, 619-840-7353
San DiegoBach Collegium San Diego, one of the country’s leading ensembles performing historically informed performances repertoire from the Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical eras, will now add a world premiere commission to its list of accomplishments—the entire Handel’s Messiah, in Spanish, performed on historically accurate instruments.


The company has commissioned a Spanish libretto of Handel’s Messiah with the purpose of performing it in one of the vernacular languages of our immediate community, both in the United States and Mexico. 


Messiah has been a mainstay of the Bach Collegium San Diego season throughout the company’s history, but Artistic Director Ruben Valenzuela has always sought to present different versions in order to showcase Messiah‘s versatility and eternal appeal. Valenzuela developed his own love of music through experiencing Messiah excerpts in Spanish during his childhood and musically formative years. A complete performance in Spanish will bring together Valenzuela’s longtime goal of a dynamic, historically informed performance in keeping with Messiah’s ongoing history of a work that adapts, is malleable, and responds to the world around it. 


In addition to founding and leading Bach Collegium San Diego, Ruben Valenzuela is Director of the Music & Organist of All Souls’ Episcopal Church, San Diego, and the Choral Director of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus. As a musicologist, he has undertaken research at the Centro Nacional de Investigación, Documentación e Información Musical, Carlos Chavez (CENEDIM, Mexico City), and engaged in research at the Archivo del Cabildo of Mexico City Cathedral. He holds a PhD in Musicology from Claremont Graduate University.


The Many Messiahs


Since the oratorio’s premiere in Dublin, Ireland, in 1741, Handel’s Messiah has permeated the fabric of Western culture. Handel performed the work continuously, most notably in charitable performances connected to London’s Foundling Hospital. Handel continuously adapted and rearranged the work to suit the strengths of his singers, his evolving orchestral resources, and overall intentions. By the time of Handel’s death in 1759, one could legitimately consider 10 distinct versions of the work, with no less than 43 versions of the 15 arias.  


Messiah has an unbroken performance history, continuously evolving through time according to the needs of a particular age. In the late 18th century Mozart took his own hand to Messiah (Der Messias) by adapting a version suitable for Viennese audiences in the German language and with expanded orchestral forces. As the work grew in popularity into the 19th and 20th centuries, so to the ongoing adaptations and reimagining as related to performance practice. In our own time, the influence of the historically informed performance movement has brought the work full circle, seeking to return to Handel’s own performance tradition. 


The Time is Right


Messiah is not commonly performed in Spanish, and I feel that’s a real gap in its history and the Baroque repertoire,” says Valenzuela. “Our goal is to offer a competent, beautiful, elegant Spanish Messiah to the world, that will outlive us and make our mark on music history.”


The Spanish translation of Messiah is in the hands of experienced Tijuana musical scholar Mario Montenegro, artistic director of the Vocal Ensemble of the Tijuana Cultural Center. Mr. Montenegro has held teaching and research positions at the Universidad de Guadalajara, Universidad Iberoamericana in Tijuana, the School of Canto Lirico in Mazatlan, and the Centro Cultural de Tijuana, as well as the Center of Musical Arts and Scenic Vocal Formation Ja’sit in Tijuana. For more than 30 years, he has focused on the understanding and performance of opera from the perspective and analysis of argument, style and communication of the text through music and scenic representation. In this field he has worked as a director and producer of radio programs and opera and concert performances. His book, “Morfologia del Bel Canto,” proposes a methodological approach to the analysis of the most representative works of Italian Romanticism.


“This is the right place to do it, and the right ensemble,“ Valenzuela says. “Our artists know Messiah so well, and are ready to do a new version justice. The time is ripe for this project, broadening the reach of our European treasures and expanding what that means for new communities and how they access them.”


Updates and details on “El Mesías: Messiah for a New World” can be found at the Bach Collegium San Diego website and social media, and by signing up for occasional e-newsletters. 


ABOUT Bach Collegium San Diego
Bach Collegium San Diego engages audiences with accessible, historically informed performances and educational programs featuring repertoire from the Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical eras. The ensemble was founded in 2003 by Music Director Ruben Valenzuela to diversify the musical offerings of the San Diego community. Bach Collegium San Diego has presented a wide variety of historically significant works, including many San Diego and Southern California premieres. Works are performed using the instruments, instrumentation, and techniques of the period in which they were written. Bach Collegium San Diego engages this country’s finest musicians working in the field of early music, bringing world-class historically informed performance to the greater San Diego area through main stage concerts and admission-free lunchtime performances. Through its excellent programming and exemplary performances, Bach Collegium San Diego is considered one of the premier early music ensembles on the West Coast and is quickly becoming one of this country’s foremost ensembles for early music. 


Bach Collegium San Diego is Ensemble-in-Residence at All Souls’ Episcopal Church in Point Loma.


For detailed bios and a list of ensemble performers please visit the website.


Ruben Valenzuela, Artistic Director


1475 Catalina Blvd.
San Diego CA 92107 USA


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