Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle

Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle
Saturday, March 2, 7:00 p.m., Cathedral Church of St Luke, Portland
Sunday, March 3, 2:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Unitarian Universalist Church, Brunswick

The Oratorio Chorale will present Gioachino Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle March 2 and 3 in Portland and Brunswick, under the direction of Emily Isaacson. Isaacson has chosen to present the work in Rossini’s own original 1863 arrangement, which features two pianos and a harmonium, plus soloists and chorus. Joining the Chorale are soloists tenor Matt Anderson; countertenor Reginald Mobley, soprano Deborah Selig, and baritone Paul Max Tipton, as well as pianists Scott Wheatley and Tina Davis and organist Ray Cornils.

Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792–1868) began his opera career at the age of 18 in Italy, and by the time he was 37 had written more than 40 operas and was the sweetheart of Europe. As Phillip Gossett, American musicologist and authority on Rossini wrote: “No composer in the first half of the 19th century enjoyed the measure of prestige, wealth, popular acclaim or artistic influence that belonged to Rossini. His contemporaries recognized him as the greatest Italian composer of his time.” And yet, after the triumphant success of William Tell, Rossini unexpectedly retired. The reasons for Rossini’s withdrawal have been continually discussed during and since his lifetime. In a 1934 article, the critic Francis Toye called Rossini’s retirement a “phenomenon unique in the history of music and difficult to parallel in the whole history of art.” Modern scholarship suggests that divorce, the death of both parents, and illness were major factors in Rossini’s absence from public life. After 25 years spent teaching in Bologna, Rossini and his second wife moved to Paris in search of better medical care, and there his health and humor returned, prompting a flurry of composition, including more than 150 song cycles, solo piano pieces, and chamber works—and the Petite Messe Solennelle, which he termed “the last of my péchés de vieillesse” (sins of old age). Indeed, most of these works were performed only at his private salons, attended by most of the great artistic and public figures in Paris at the time.

Matthew Anderson (tenor) has been praised for the warm tenor voice and polished musicality he brings to oratorio, opera, and musical theater. An accomplished interpreter of the music of Bach, Anderson sings regularly as a soloist in Boston’s renowned Emmanuel Music Bach Cantata Series. He appeared at the Aldeburgh Festival as a soloist in the Saint Matthew Passion and spent several summers at the Carmel Bach Festival, where he was featured as a Virginia Best Adams Fellow and aria soloist in the Saint John Passion. He has received particular acclaim for his portrayals of the Evangelists in Bach’s Passions, which he has performed throughout the United States. 

Reginald Mobley (countertenor) specializes in Baroque music, jazz and traditional American spirituals. After starting his classical music career as a member of twice GRAMMY®-nominated ensemble Seraphic Fire, Mobley has since appeared with Academy of Ancient Music, Agave Baroque, Bach Collegium San Diego, Calgary Symphony, Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists, Pacific Music Works, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, TENET, and The Handel + Haydn Society. With the latter, he had the honor of becoming the first Black person to lead H+H in its Bicentennial year.

Deborah Selig (soprano) has been described in the press as “capable of any emotional nuance” with a voice that is “radiant,” “beautifully rich,” and “impressively nimble.” Selig performs repertoire spanning music from the baroque to contemporary in opera, oratorio, and art song across the United States. Selig also is passionate about teaching and mentoring the next generation of singers, currently serving on the voice faculties of Wellesley College, Brown University, and the summer Boston University Tanglewood Institute.

Paul Max Tipton (baritone) trained on full fellowship at the University of Michigan School of Music in Ann Arbor, being mentored by mezzo-soprano Luretta Bybee and also Martin Katz, under whose direction he performed the title role in Don Giovanni. He is based in Boston, and in May 2010 graduated from the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music, having studied with tenor James Taylor. Tipton sang the role of Judas in J.S. Bach‘s St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) under Helmuth Rilling at Carnegie Hall in 2007, and soloed under Leonard Slatkin on the Naxos recording of William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence & of Experience, a project that won three Grammys in 2006.


Ray Cornils (harmonium) recently retired as Municipal Organist for the City of Portland, a post he held from 1990 to 2017. For thirty years, he served as Minister of Music at the First Parish Church, in Brunswick, Maine, where he led an extensive music program of five vocal and two hand bell choirs. Known for his highly diverse programming, Cornils has concertized throughout the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Russia, New Zealand, and Ecuador. He has been a featured recitalist for conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society. In addition to his solo work, he performs regularly with the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

Tina Davis (piano), originally from Deer Isle, completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees in piano under Laura Kargul at the University of Southern Maine School of Music. She is a past winner of the Ocy L. Downs Piano Competition and was a finalist in the Bangor Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition. She has participated in the Maine Young Musicians Program at Kneisel Hall in Blue Hill and performed in masterclasses with Marian Hahn, Jane Coop, Lora Tchekoratova and Mark Gibson. At USM Tina was a winner of both the Honors Recital and Chamber Music Awards.

Scott Wheatley (piano), assistant music director for the Oratorio Chorale and music director at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Portland, has performed with the Kansas City Lyric Opera, New York City Opera, Whitewater Opera, Bronx Opera, Sarasota Opera, Opera Northeast, Connecticut Grand Opera, and the Ashlawn Summer Festival companies as well as the New York Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Mostly Mozart Festival, Lincoln Center Festival, Vienna Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony. He recently performed the role of Antonio in Opera Maine’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro.

Advance: $25 adults, $12.50 students (plus small handling fee)
Door tickets: $30 adults, $15 students.
Children under 12 free with adult but tickets required.

Tickets are available online at
Or call 1-800-838-3006

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Season Underwriters: Diversified Asset Planners, Penmor Lithographers

Concert Sponsor: H. M. Payson
Composer’s Circle: The Highlands
Chorus Circle: Androscoggin Bank, Community Sponsors, Bath Savings Institution, Brann & Isaacson, H. M. Payson, OceanView at Falmouth