‘Too Hot To Handel’ Delivers a sizzling holiday performance

By: Phyllis
“Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz Gospel Messiah,” arrived at the Detroit Opera House Dec. 12.

The dynamic one-night musical production came just in time to welcome the holiday season. The sizzling production delivered plenty of memorable holiday spirit while celebrating the tradition of George Frideric Handel’s work.

“Messiah” first premiered in 1742 in Dublin, Ireland. The work represents the Christian view of the Messiah. The powerful score first introduced during Lent, has since transcended into music most commonly performed around the Christmas holiday season.

In 1993, The Concordia Orchestra of New York City commissioned “Too Hot to Handel” from arrangers Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson. The two musicians took the fundamental heart of Handel’s famous masterwork and re-created “The Jazz Gospel Messiah.” The new scores combined the exhilarating influences of rhythm and blues, jazz and gospel to Handel’s vintage 1742 “Messiah.”

The impressive result resonated with searing passion at the Detroit Opera House and gave rise to talented featured artists like, Rodrick Dixon, tenor. Dixon commanded attention and got it. Dixon’s unique character lent itself to both the dramatic and playful, as he belted out some serious music with a wink and a smile.

Smiles were plentiful, and filled with the joy of the season as the powerful vocals of the Rackham Symphony Choir engaged with the featured artists. Under the masterful hand of Suzanne Mallare Acton, Michigan’s own Rackham Symphony Choir, caroled with heart. The RSC boasts a substantial musical history, performing with many of the world’s most distinguished performers from conductor Thomas Schippers and Antal Dorati to singers like Luciano Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland. The uplifting Hallelujah Chorus rejoiced in the spirit of good tidings and delivered good cheer.

The vocal artistry of featured soprano Alfreda Burke was captivating. The unassuming Burke quietly opened and suddenly consumed everyone’s attention with ease. Burke’s tender voice left a lingering impression.

Featured also Karen Marie Richardson generated some well-deserved attention with her sassy attitude and powerful vocals, she was a delight.

Overall, “Too Hot to Handel” was inspirational and entertaining, a musical feel-good experience.

The spring opera season will open with “Don Giovanni,” April 10 through 18. Tickets range from $29 to $121. For tickets, information calls (313) 237-SING or go to www.MichiganOpera.org.