Reviewed by Paula Citron
Oct 26, 2011
I Believe: A Holocaust Oratorio for Today
Three Pillars Foundation/Attila Glatz Concert Productions
Music and lyrics by Zane Zalis
Conducted by Roberto Paternostro
Performed by soprano Kelsey Cowie, tenors Marc Devigne and Marko Zeiler, Orpheus Choir of Toronto, University of Toronto MacMillan Singers, Hamilton Children’s Choir, Opera Canada Symphony, and narrator Harvey Atkin
Roy Thomson Hall
Winnipeg composer Zane Zalis is Ukrainian Catholic. Nonetheless, his I Believe: A Holocaust Oratorio for Today, contains all the passion and poignancy of someone closely related to the genocide.
I Believe originally premiered in Winnipeg in 2009. The oratorio’s Toronto debut featured the same soloists and Austrian conductor, Roberto Paternostro, joined here by three local choirs and the Opera Canada Symphony.
I was expecting a classical music oratorio, but the minute soprano Kelsey Cowie, and tenors Marc Devigne and Marko Zeiler, began to sing, I knew I was in the realm of pop culture. Zalis writes very beautiful music similar to Broadway pop operas such as Les Miz and Phantom, for soloists who can belt out a song.
Zalis’ approach is very original, touching on topic such as Kristallnacht, the doomed ship the St. Louis, and even Hitler’s own words and the Wannsee Conference.
I would have liked a more rousing finale, but the oratorio, as a whole, is a very moving experience.