ELIJAH opus 70 – Mendelssohn.

May 11, 2019 @ 18:00 – 20:00
Brooklyn Theatre
c/o 13th Street & Thomas Edison
R620, R520, R420, R250

an Oratorio for choir, soloists & orchestra

Felix Mendelssohn
Gauteng Philharmonic Orchestra
NWU Konservatoriumkoor/NWU Conserve Choir

11 May – 18:00
12 May – 15:00


Adam Szmidt (conductor) from Republic of Poland
Erminie Blondel (soprano) from French Republic, courtesy of the IFAS
Kasia Otczyk (mezzo) from Republic of Poland
Kyungho Kim (tenor) from Republic of Korea (ROK)
Thomas Mohlamme (bass) from Republic of South Africa (RSA)

During the Victorian Age, among oratorios, only Messiah by Handel was more popular than Elijah. Today, their popularity remains with both Messiah and Elijah considered favourites by lovers of choral music. For this reason, it seemed an obvious choice to present this majestic choral work to the Brooklyn Theatre audience as a highlight of the 2019 GPO season of concerts.

Following in the footsteps of two earlier productions at Brooklyn Theatre, the Mendelssohn Choral Symphony (no. 2) – The Lobgesang 2015 and the Mozart Requiem 2016, both featuring the amazing NWU Conservatoire choir, led by Santisa Viljoen, Elijah promises to be a tour de force.

With assistance from three embassies, Artistic Director, Willem Vogel, has managed to put together a truly international team of musicians to make this a memorable event.

Polish-German conductor, Adam Schmidt, is no newcomer to Brooklyn Theatre and was highly acclaimed for his fine work work with the GPO in the past two years. Mezzo soprano, Kasia Otczyk, also of Polish descent, is also on board, for this exciting project, courtesy of the Polish embassy.

The GPO is fortunate to feature French soprano, Erminie Blondel, courtesy of the French embassy, IFAS and Alliance Française. A sponsorship from the Korean embassy, affords the GPO the services of a leading Korean tenor, currently in the employ of the Leipzing Opera House in Germany.

The Brooklyn Theatre audience has welcomed the warm voice of SA bass, Thomas Mohlamme, in a number of productions, since he made his debut as Sarastro in The Magic Flute in 2018.

Block A (Adult) – R620 Block B (Adult) – R520
Block A (Senior) – R520 Block B (Senior)- R420
Block C (Row P, Q, R) – R250


Brooklyn Theatre (012 460 6033)
Greenlyn Village Centre
C/o Thomas Edison and 13th Streets
Menlo Park

Between the end of the 17th century and the end of the 19th, England could not boast about too many notable native-born composers. Sir Arthur Sullivan, Sir Charles H.H. Parry and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford could be seen as exceptions between Purcell and Elgar, but for about two hundred years music in England tended to be spear-headed by foreigners. In the first half of the 18th century, Handel was prominent, with his many operas and then oratorios. At the end of the century, Joseph Haydn enjoyed two successful stints in England. isHis last twelve symphonies, composed for his English journeys, are known as the “London” symphonies. Then, in the first half of the 19th century, Felix Mendelssohn (born in 1809) became the darling of English society. As both a performer and composer, Mendelssohn enjoyed great fame in Victorian England, causing Prince Albert to dub him “The Second Elijah.”

Mendelssohn loved the choral works of Bach and Handel and jumped at the chance to compose one of his own when he was commissioned in 1831. The result was his oratorio St. Paul, premiered in 1836 in Dusseldorf, but presented in English within a year in Liverpool, London and Birmingham. Mendelssohn was keen to try to repeat the success of St. Paul and planned for an oratorio on the subject of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. But distracted by his busy career, he put the idea aside until he received a commission for a new oratorio in 1845 from the Birmingham Festival. Birmingham was Mendelssohn’s favourite English city after London, and he had enjoyed considerable success there. For help and advice, he contacted his childhood friend and the librettist for St. Paul, the Rev. Julius Schubring. Mendelssohn was attracted to the story of the prophet Elijah for two reasons. First, the story with its drought, rain, fire, storms and earthquakes allowed for high drama and evocative scenes. But secondly, Mendelssohn was worried that Europe was in a state of moral decay. He wrote to Schubring,

“I imagined Elijah as a grand and mighty prophet, of the kind we could really do with today – strong, zealous, and yes, even bad-tempered, angry, and brooding – in contrast to the riff-raff, whether of the court or of the people, and indeed in contrast to almost the whole world – and yet borne aloft as if on the wings of angels.”

But Mendelssohn and Schubring clashed over Elijah. Schubring, a fundamentalist Lutheran pastor, wanted to superimpose New Testament beliefs on the Old Testament story. To him, an oratorio should be a kind of sermon in music, and drama and scene-painting were inappropriate. One of Schubring’s plans was to have Christ appear at the end of the oratorio as a sign of the fulfillment of Elijah’s prophecies. Mendelssohn rejected the idea, but eventually they were able to work out their differences and Elijah was completed in August, 1846, just two weeks before the premiere at the Birmingham Festival. The response was rapturous, and four arias and four choruses had to be repeated. Mendelssohn himself claimed it was his greatest premiere ever, but typically, he was unsatisfied with the work, and rewrote parts of it before the London premiere eight months later, attended by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The German premiere was in Hamburg in Oct. 1847, but by then Mendelssohn was too ill to conduct. He died on Nov. 4, 1847 at the age of thirty-eight. Sketches for another oratorio, Christus, were found on his desk.

Elijah tells of several key incidents in the life of the 9thcentury (BCE) prophet. In Part 1, God brings on a drought because of Israel’s faithlessness, Elijah proves that his God is the true and only one, and rain returns to the parched land. In Part 2, Elijah flees to the wilderness, resigned to the failure of his mission, but his spirit and strength are restored by the appearance of God and he ascends into heaven. Basically, it’s the story of a good man who fights against evil and finally rises to heaven in a fiery chariot.

Background on artists:

Adam Szmidt (conductor) from Republic of Poland

The German-Polish conductor Adam Szmidt will be producing a worldwide documentary
on music in 2018-2020 that will cast a light on music and its social impact. Currently
freelance, working and traveling, Mr. Szmidt has been working until 2016 for two seasons as
Assistant of the Choir Director, Vocal Coach and Conductor at the Opera house of the Federal City of Bonn. Before his engagement he studied in the University of Performing Arts Graz (KUG), Austria with Johannes Prinz, Conductor of the Singverein Vienna, Choral Conducting and completed successfully a Master’s degree in Orchestra Conducting at the Conservatory of Music and Performing Arts in Nürnberg with Prof. Guido Rumstadt. Mr. Szmidt assisted his teacher in two productions, “Il Trovatore”at Staatstheater Nürnberg and “Drei Wasserspiele” at Stadttheater Fürth.

He was also engaged as Repetiteur at the Music
Theatre in Heidelberg for two productions including four contemporary operas. In
September 2013 Mr. Szmidt gave his successful debut at the renowned Smetana Hall in
Prague with the North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. He was also part of the ERASMUSProgramme
in the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (KUG) in the class of Prof.
Wolfgang Dörner, winner of the prestigious Besançon Competition and assistant of Lorin

During his studies from 2005 to 2010 at the Conservatory of Music and Performing Arts in
Mannheim he received important musical inspiration from his teachers Ragna Schirmer,
Klaus Eisenmann and Georg Grün. He acquired unforgetable experiences, while completing
his civil service in Papua-New Guinea, where he performed as conductor at important
events, such as the National Education Conference and for the visit of the President of New

Mr. Szmidt has gained valueable experiences through his engagements with choirs and
orchestras. He participated in a number of master classes with Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi,
Leonid Grin, Ben Zander, Nicolás Pasquet, Yoel Levi, Lior Shambadal, Gianluigi Gelmetti,
Mark Stringer, Mark Heron, Markand Thakar, Dumitru Goia and others for conducting and
worked with such orchestras as Rhein-Main-Philhamoniker, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra,
Pomeriggi Musicali in Milano, National Radio Orchestra Bukarest, Nürnberger
Symphoniker, The New Haifa Symphony Orchestra, Sofia Festival Orchestra, Gauteng
Philharmonic Orchestra, Bad Reichenhaller Philharmonie and Westböhmisches
Symphonieorchester Bad Marienbad.

Born in December 1982 in Poland, Adam Szmidt came to Germany at the age of six
obtaining a second nationality. Through his piano lessons he received a solid musical
education and, during his school days, he successfully participated in competitions such as
the Stuttgarter Matthaes-Wettbewerb and Jugend Musiziert on all categories of solo and
ensemble performances. Furthermore he came in second place in the category of piano solo
on national level.

Already when in high school, Mr. Szmidt received funding for his musical education
through the Lions-Club and private donors. Additionally, the Studienstiftung des deutschen
Volkes (German National Academic Foundation) awarded him a scholarship for his
university studies. He also obtained a scholarships from the Alfred-Töpfer-Foundation and
the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). For the last season, Mr. Szmidt has been
called to become Conductor of the German National Academic Foundation Orchestra North

Erminie Blondel (soprano) from French Republic, 
courtesy of the IFAS

Erminie Blondel, trained as a violist, studied at the Geneva Conservatory, graduated with a 1er Prix at the Rueil-Malmaison Conservatory, and holds a Masters Degree in Recital Arts from the Paris Sorbonne. She was a member of the CNIPAL Opera Studio in 2009-2010. She now prepares her operatic roles with internationally acclaimed coach Irene Kudela of the Paris Opera.
The French-American Soprano has performed in many theaters, including Théâtre du Châtelet, Opera Comique, Nice Opera, Marseille Opera, Toulon Opera, Avignon Opera, Teatro Verdi di Pisa, Teatro Goldoni di Livorno, Teatro Coccia di Novara, and Victoria Hall in Geneva where she sang the Mozart Requiem under M. Corboz.

On stage, she has sung the major roles of her repertoire: Violetta in La Traviata in Torino in 2012 and in 2016 in Paris, London and Shanghaï, Pamina in The Magic Flute at Naturbühne Gräfinthal and Juliet in the French premiere of GA Benda’s Romeo and Juliet at the Clermont-Ferrand Opera in 2016, Poulenc La Voix Humaine, acclaimed by Opera Magazine, Menotti The TelephoneAntonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann in Italy under G. Condette, Donna Anna in Don GiovanniMarguerite in FaustKonstanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio, Massenet’s ManonMaria in West Side Story… In June 2017, she made her role debut as Micaela in Carmen with Orchestre Philharmonique International at La Seine Musicale.

Erminie Blondel will return to the Clermont-Ferrand Opera in 2018 to sing Pamina in The Magic Flute, as well as on national tour with Opera Nomade. She is currently working on an album of Art Songs by Laks, Saguer et Kowalski with Forum Voix Etouffées. In 2019, she will sing Bellangère in Ariane et Barbe-Bleue by Dukas in her house debut at the Theatre du Capitole, Toulouse.

Kasia Otczyk (mezzo) from Republic of Poland

The Italo-Polish mezzo-soprano Katarzyna Otczyk graduated in opera singing at the F. Chopin Music University in 2009 in Warsaw, in the class of Anna Radziejewska. She made a period of study at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome for the European Erasmus program and was a member in 2012 of the Opera Studio of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. Over the years of training she has followed masterclasses of Teresa Berganza, Renato Bruson, Renata Scotto, Sara Mingardo, Anna Vandi, Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz, Jadwiga Rappé.
The debut of Katarzyna Otczyk was held in the 2008/09 season, with the role of Lucinda in The Lover of All by Galuppi at the Warsaw Chamber Opera followed by Bianca in The Rape of Lucretia by Britten at the Baltic Opera in Gdansk. Between 2010 and 2015 she sang Maddalena in Rigoletto (Gubbio), Suzuki in Madama Butterfly (Spoleto), Flora in the Traviata (Spoleto, Perugia, Rome) Zita in Gianni Schiccni (Spoleto), Adalbert in Adelaide of Borgogna di Pietro generali ( Robigo, work recorded by the Bongiovanni record company) Alfred Alfred by Donatoni, Pipa and Barlafuso by Caldara, Bacocco and Serpilla by Orlandini (Spoleto) Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas by Purcell (Warsaw), Conscience in Migrant Opera by Gregoretti (Spoleto, Rome). In 2017 she sang in Medeamaterial by Pascal Dusapin at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna, director Marco Angius.
She has already dealt with a large number of works from the vocal and sacred symphonic repertoire: Vivaldi’s Glory, Handel’s Resurrection, Mozart’s Masses, Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Petite Messe Solemnelle etc. She also gained significant experience in the field of contemporary music with scores by Luigi Nono, Risonante Erranti (Parma, Traiettorie 2014, Ex Novo Musica Venezia 2015, Padova Festival SaMPL), Prometeo (Parma Teatro Farnese, 2017); Sciarrino, Infinito Nero (Parma Traiettorie 2015); Sinopoli Souvenirs à la mémoire (Biennale Musica 2015); Lucio Gregoretti Migrants – Andante alla Belga (Rome Sinfonietta 2017)
Katarzyna Otczyk was the winner of the 65th edition of the Competition for Young Opera Singers European Community 2011 in Spoleto. Winner of the third prize of the Valentino Bucchi 2010 Award and of the third prize at the 8th International Provencal Singing Competition in Naples in 2011. Finalist and winner of the “Provincia di Roma” special prize at the International Competition “Musica Sacra 2011” in Rome. Finalist, graduate and fellow of the Youth Music Forum of the Austrian Cultural Forum in Warsaw in 2007. Winner of the special award for best performance of Chopin’s songs for the Canto Summer Academy in Gdansk in 2010.

Präsentation und Vorstellung der neuen Mitglieder des Internationalen Opernstudios
Kyungho Kim
Staatsoper im Schillertheater, Bismarckstraße 110, 10625 Berlin

Kyungho Kim (tenor) from Republic of Korea (ROK)

The talented young Korean tenor Kyungho Kim is a graduate of the National University of Arts in Seoul. From 2011 to 2013, he was a member of the International Opera Studio of the Staatsoper in Berlin, where he performed as Flavio in Norma and appeared in a few other roles. He has garnered a number of prizes, including at the Bellini International Vocal Competition. In December 2012, he debuted to great acclaim as Chevalier des Grieux in a production of Massenet’s Manon in Dortmund, following which he has performed as a guest at the Staatsoper in Berlin and regularly appeared at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava (as the Duke in Rigoletto, Rodolfo in La bohème, Roméo in Roméo et Juliette, Gabriele Adorno in Simon Boccanegra). Since 2015, he has regularly performed as a guest at the Oper Leipzig (Ismael in Nabucco, Alfredo in La traviata, Heinrich in Tannhäuser, Rodolfo in La bohème, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Edgardo in Lucie di Lammermoor, etc.). In 2016, Kim made his debut at the Bregenzer Festspiele (as Pong in Turandot). 

Thomas Mohlamme (bass) from Republic of South Africa (RSA)

Daland (Understudy) – Der Fliegende Holländer by R. Wagner, Cape Town Opera
Commendatore (Self Taught) – Don Giovanni by WA Mozart 2017

2010 Bass role in Handel’s Messiah conducted by Ludumo Magangane
2013 Unnamed Guard, South African Opera Ziyankomo and the forbidden Fruit by P. Mnomiya
2017 Sparafucile, Rigoletto by G. Verdi, Cape Town Opera
2017 Sarastro, Die Zauberflöte by WA Mozart 2017, Cape Town Opera/ University of Cape Town

2006 & 2007 Sowetan and SABC Annual Massed Choir Festival Bass Soloist
2012 Bass Soloist at Prof Mzilikazi Khumalo 90th Birthday Concert with Gauteng Massed Choir
2013 Opera Africa Gala Concert
2017 KZN Philharmonic Orchestra Annual Youth Concerto
2017 Cape Town Opera Gala Concert

2003 North West Cultural Calabash Best Vocalist
2004 UNISA Classical Festival Silver Certificate
2005 South African Tertiary Institutions Choral Association 1st Price
2005 South African Tertiary Institutions Choral Association Best Male Soloist
2006 South African Tertiary Institutions Choral Association 1st Runner Up

Opera Africa Chorus Member
2008 AIDA by G. Verdi 2008;
2011 Carmen by G. Bizet 2011;
2011 Le Nozze Di Figaro by W.A. Mozart 2011

Cape Town Opera Chorus Member
2017 Der Fliegende Holländer – Norwegian Sailor/ Dutchman Ghost Crew
2017 African Angels (Germany Tour)
Cape Town Opera Staff Soloist 2017
Voice Teacher – Hanna Van Schalkwyk based in Cape Town
Voice Teacher – Lorraine Havemann based in Pretoria