While in Vienna, waltzes are the signature pieces of New Year concerts, Haydn's oratorios have become the Müpa’s traditional choice for opening the year, Die Schöpfung (The Creation) dominating the programme throughout the years, with the occasional performances of Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons). For the fourth year in a row, the choice fell again on Schöpfung – arguably the grander and more transformative piece of the two – and under the seasoned leadership of Ádám Fischer, the joint forces of the Teatro alla Scala Academy Orchestra and the Hungarian Radio Choir with an impressive line-up of soloists gave an inspired performance and a thrilling start of the year for the Budapest public.

Ádám Fischer conducting <i>The Creation</i> © Gábor Kotschy, Müpa Budapest
Ádám Fischer conducting The Creation
© Gábor Kotschy, Müpa Budapest

Ádám Fischer’s affinity for Haydn’s music is unquestionable, and he conducted with contagious enthusiasm and joy, leading the orchestra in a brisk, energetic reading of the score (that, though invigorating, felt almost overwhelming at times). Under his baton, the young musicians of the Teatro alla Scala Academy Orchestra performed with verve and intensity, producing a full-bodied, vibrant sound (the woodwinds especially rich and colourful), vividly painting the images conjured up in Gottfried van Swieten’s libretto and negotiating the dynamics of the piece excellently: the transformation from the tensely hushed overture and opening recitative to the outburst of energy on “Und es ward Licht” was absolutely thrilling. Not beholden to staying simply bombastic, the orchestra also emphasized the simpler, more playful moments of the oratorio well, like the depiction of animals in “Gleich öffnet sich der Erde Schoß”, and their luscious sound shone in the softer, gentler parts such as “Von deiner Güt, o Herr und Gott” or “Holde Gattin”.

The Hungarian Radio Choir, always a memorable part of Müpa’s Wagner Days festival, did not disappoint either. Their powerful, radiant sound filled the hall, appropriately grandiose for the many climatic choruses of the oratorio, but it never overwhelmed. Just like the orchestra, they performed with great energy, expressivity, warmth and variety of tone and sang with very good diction.

Regula Mühlemann, Ádám Fischer and the Teatro alla Scala Academy Orchestra © Gábor Kotschy, Müpa Budapest
Regula Mühlemann, Ádám Fischer and the Teatro alla Scala Academy Orchestra
© Gábor Kotschy, Müpa Budapest

Regula Mühlemann was the standout among the soloists: with a pearly, gleaming soprano and remarkable technical security, her singing was sweet-toned and effortless, a delight throughout the entire performance. Miklós Sebestyén, the last minute replacement for the indisposed Thomas E. Bauer, was similarly impressive, displaying a smooth, velvety bass-baritone and singing with clear diction, sensitive phrasing and not without a well-placed touch of humour. His voice blended wonderfully with Mühlemann’s in their duets as Adam and Eve, their singing charming and blissful.

Paul Schweinester’s performance was less secure, his voice tending to get strangled at the top that marred his singing, most noticeably in “Mit Würd' und Hoheit angetan”. Otherwise, however, his clear, elegant tenor was pleasant in the recitatives, and his singing in the ensembles proved adequate, if not as captivating as the other soloists’ performance. Overall, however, that did not detract from the enjoyment of the evening: this performance of Die Schöpfung was uplifting and delightful, full of joy, and a superb musical experience with which to start 2018.