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Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha on Mendelssohn's Elijah

Star soprano Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha tells us why Mendelssohn’s most monumental oratorio Elijah is so revered.


By Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha

2-minute read

Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha wearing a black dress and silver jewellery, posing with one hand on her hip.

What makes Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah one of the great oratorios of musical history?

I believe it is down to Mendelssohn’s seamless ability to connect the text and music; the two go hand-in-hand, creating the most beautiful music and enabling the text to shine through.

How is the story brought to life through the music (both the orchestra and singers)?

I think that Mendelssohn cleverly brings the story alive by creating different emotions and imagery in his musical writing, providing both drama and poignancy throughout. For example, when the Widow asks Elijah to pray for her sick and dying son, the writing encourages the audience to empathise with her anguish. Another example, can be found in the orchestral writing during Elijah’s prayer, the dramatic expression and feeling of suspense in the orchestra, keeps the listener wondering what could happen next – this for me, is the magical moment of the piece.

What aspects of Mendelssohn’s Elijah do you find most challenging and exciting as a performer?

This work can be challenging because it requires a comprehensive understanding of the text, in order to link the music and the text and to achieve what Mendelssohn set out – which is a huge responsibility. There are many exciting parts in this oratorio, but Mendelssohn’s writing in the soprano aria Hear ye Israel is special, and showcases the full range of the voice and portrays multiple characters (being both the narrator and God).

What is it like working with Sir Antonio Pappano?

It is always a pleasure and honour to work with Maestro Pappano – I am particularly excited to work with him on my first Elijah, which has now become a firm favourite oratorio of mine.

What do you hope the audience will take away from this performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah?

I hope that the audience are moved by the beauty of the music, enjoy exploring their imagination and take away the message that you are not alone.

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