It’s not about the Whale
Currently in its 16th season and the recipient of the Westchester County 2012 Arts Organization of the Year Award, Taconic Opera will be performing the world premiere performance and professional recording of the oratorio Jonah by the company’s General and Artistic Director, Dan Montez. The public response to last spring’s premiere of another of Montez’s bible–inspired oratorios, Enoch, was so positive that the composer decided it was time to introduce audiences to Jonah, complete with full orchestra, opera soloists and the full chorus of the Taconic Opera.
The story of Jonah and the whale is too important to be considered just a children’s story. There are several life lessons in the Book of Jonah for both children and adults. “Everyone thinks the story is about some guy getting swallowed by a whale,” says Montez. “It is not. It is about a very complex man, weighed down by the contradictions he perceives coming from a vacillating God.” Jonah, a major character in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic philosophies, has something for everyone: disaster, destruction, anger, forgiveness, justice, truth, and mercy. “Jonah desires, like so many of us, to see people ‘get what they deserve,’” says Montez, “but he needs to be taught that human happiness is wrapped up in our ability to forgive and show mercy.”
The oratorio narrative is based on the biblical Book of Jonah and includes references from Nahum, Pslams and other texts. It contains the major moments of the Book including the wickedness of the Ninevites, Jonah’s call from God to get them to reject their evil ways, his disobedience, the sparing of his life, and the important lessons he learns regarding mercy and forgiveness. Montez’s composing style has been compared to that of Fauré, Poulenc, Debussy and Ravel. He describes his music a little differently. “I want my music to be beautiful, and I want it to be spiritual. Too much liturgical music over the past few hundred years seems to be concert music that draws attention to itself. I want my audience to have a peaceful, inspiring experience that is not about me or my music, but rather about something greater.”
The company will be presenting two performances of the oratorio in two locations: Saturday, May 31, 2014, at 7:30 pm at the Ossining United Methodist Church, 1 Emwilton Place/corner of Route 9, Ossining, NY; and Sunday, June 1, 2014, at 3:00 pm at the White Plains Presbyterian Church, 39 North Broadway, White Plains, NY. Tickets are $27, $20 for seniors and $15 for students and can be purchased at the door, in advance online at www.taconicopera.org, or by calling Taconic Opera’s toll-free number 1-855-886-7372.