Press Room

Houston Symphony and Chorus Treat Audiences to Premier Performances of Baroque Masterpiece Messiah

HOUSTON (Nov. 27, 2017) – The Houston Symphony celebrates the holiday season with a Baroque-era masterpiece, Handel’s Messiah, at 8 p.m. Dec. 15-16 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 17 in Jones Hall.

Considered the best-known English-language oratorio, Messiah has become a Houston Symphony holiday tradition. Through its brilliant arias and chorus, Messiah tells the story of Jesus Christ’s life from prophecy to death and resurrection. From “Comfort ye, my people” to the final “Amen” chorus, listeners will get into the holiday spirit with this incredible performance by the Houston Symphony.

Praised conductor Paul Agnew will make his Houston Symphony debut leading both the orchestra and Houston Symphony Chorus. The chorus will join the orchestra and soloists Yulia Doren (soprano), Daniel Taylor (countertenor), Sam Levine (tenor) and Alex Rosen (bass) for this unforgettable performance. All featured soloists except Doren will be making their Houston Symphony debuts.

All concerts except for the Dec. 14 performance will take place at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana Street, in Houston’s Theater District. For tickets and information, please call (713) 224-7575 or visit Tickets may also be purchased at the Houston Symphony Patron Services Center in Jones Hall (Monday–Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). All programs and artists are subject to change.

Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, 8 p.m. (at Sugar Land Baptist Church)
Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, 2:30 p.m.
Paul Agnew, conductor
Yulia Van Doren, soprano
Daniel Taylor, countertenor
Sam Levine, tenor
Alex Rosen, bass
Houston Symphony Chorus
Betsy Cook Weber, director

About Paul Agnew
Paul Agnew is in continuous demand as an outstanding interpreter of the baroque and pre-classical repertoire. His long association with the world’s leading conductors in the field of early music includes a discography of over one hundred recordings. Born in Glasgow, he was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford before embarking on an acclaimed vocal career that has taken him throughout the world.

His transition to a conducting career began following a highly successful debut with Les Arts Florissants in Paris in 2007, when William Christie appointed him Joint Musical Director of the orchestra; he has since gone on to lead the orchestra on tour to major venues such as the Wiener Konzerthaus; throughout France; and to Salzburg, China, and Lincoln Center in New York City. He made his London debut as conductor with the same ensemble at the Barbican as part of their 30th anniversary celebrations. Paul Agnew succeeded Christophe Rousset as Music Director of the Orchestre Français des Jeunes Baroque in 2009 and he is actively engaged in the training and preparation of the next generation of specialist instrumentalists. Paul Agnew is also the co-director of the academy for young singers, Le Jardin des Voix. He has conducted performances of Messiah for Le Concert d’Astrée and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra as well as Handel’s La Resurrezione at the Atelier of the Opéra national de Paris. He made his opera conducting debut with Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor at the Opéra de Rennes and in 2014, replaced William Christie to conduct the new Robert Carsen production of Rameau’s Platée at the Theatre an der Wien in Vienna, at the Opera Comique in Paris, and at St. John’s Smith Square with Early Opera Company in London (“Performances like these must make the genre’s die hard enthusiasts feel as though they’ve died and gone to heaven.” — Fringe Opera).

This season, Agnew’s engagements as guest conductor in the United States include the Houston Symphony and Portland Baroque Orchestra in Handel’s Messiah and his return to Music of the Baroque in Chicago for a program of Handel, Vivaldi, and Pergolesi. Other recent engagements of note include a scenic production of Rameau’s Indes Galantes at the Staatstheater Nürnbergthose, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Finnish Radio Chamber Orchestra in Helsinki, The Juilliard School, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, and the Seattle Symphony.

As Joint Musical Director of Les Arts Florissants, he continues to present the complete cycle of Monteverdi Madrigals in concert. Spread over nearly 100 concerts, this monumental project continues into 2017/18. The first recording to have come from the project, entitled “Mantova” (released on the Les Arts Florissants label) received high critical acclaim. The Guardian gave 4 stars to the second recording “Cremona”, and Gramophone magazine selected it for the “Editor’s choice” of its July 2016 issue. The CD has been also awarded the “Choc du mois” by the specialized music magazine Classica. Volume three, “Venezia”, was released in February 2017 and represents the completion of the project.

At the forefront of the revival of the French baroque repertoire, Paul Agnew made his critically-acclaimed debut singing the title-role in Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie at the Palais Garnier in Paris conducted by William Christie. He has since returned to Opéra National de Paris for new productions of Rameau’s Platée, Les Boréades and Les Indes galantes. He continues to perform the demanding haute-contre roles worldwide including at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Opernhaus Zürich. In recent seasons he extended his repertoire to include Mozart’s Idomeneo under William Christie; Peter Quint in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw at Opéra National de Bordeaux under Jane Glover and at the Opéra de Rennes; Haydn’s L’anima del filosofo with Kammerorchesterbasel in Vienna and Eisenstadt, Handel’s Jephtha at Det Kongelige Theater, Copenhagen in a new production by Katie Mitchell (conducted by Lars Ulrik Mortensen) and Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites at Opéra de Nice. Agnew made his debut with The Royal Opera, Covent Garden in their production of Acis and Galatea to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death.

Agnew’s comprehensive discography includes “Lamentazione” – on which he conducts Les Arts Florissants choir in works by Scarlatti and Caldara for Virgin, “The Food of Love – songs by Purcell” for Ambroisie, Sally Beamish’s In Dreaming for Virgin Classics, Rameau’s Dardanus for ABC, and Dowland songs for Metronome. On DVD, his performances include Les Boréades and Les Indes galantes on Opus Arte, Lully’s Armide, the Bach B Minor Mass and St. Matthew Passion, and his celebrated performance as Platée on TDK.

About Yulia Van Doren
Recognized by Opera as “A star-to-be” following her Lincoln Center debut, young Russian-American soprano Yulia Van Doren’s debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was acclaimed as a “revelation… a ravishing lyric voice and an ease with vocal ornamentation that turned her into an enchanted songbird” (Toronto Star). For her last minute step-in with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Plain Dealer praised Van Doren as an artist of “melting poignancy” and added, “To Van Doren, one could easily have listened for hours.”

Highlighting Ms. Van Doren’s 2017/18 season are appearances with Colorado Symphony (Mozart’s Requiem); Music of the Baroque (Bach’s St. John Passion); her return to Milwaukee Symphony (Bach’s Magnificat); and performances of Handel’s Messiah with Houston Symphony, Early Music Vancouver, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

A dedicated interpreter of repertoire off the beaten path, career highlights include creating the lead female role in the world premiere of Shostakovich’s Orango with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, directed by Peter Sellars and released on Deutsche Grammophon; two Grammy-nominated opera recordings with the Boston Early Music Festival; the modern revival of Monsigny’s opera Le roi et le fermier at Opera de Versailles, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center (recorded for Naxos); a tour of Handel’s Orlando with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra to the Mostly Mozart, Ravinia and Tanglewood festivals; a leading role in Scarlatti’s Tigrane at Opera de Nice; nationally-televised performances at the Cartagena International Music Festival with soprano Dawn Upshaw, an important mentor; and creating a leading role in the world premiere staging of Lera Auerbach’s The Blind, an a cappella opera, in the Lincoln Center Festival. Especially recognized for her work in the baroque repertoire, Ms. Van Doren has performed with the majority of the North American Baroque festivals and orchestras, and has the distinction of being the only singer awarded a top prize in all four US Bach vocal competitions.

Other recent debuts and engagements include performances with the San Francisco, Toronto, Houston, Cincinnati, Nashville, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee Symphonies; the Cleveland Orchestra; the Los Angeles Master Chorale; Washington D.C.’s Folger Consort; and two trips to the Netherlands for performances with the Radio Kamer Filharmonie.

Born in Moscow, Yulia Van Doren was raised in the United States in a music-filled household in which she and her seven younger siblings were taught by her Russian mezzo-soprano mother and American jazz pianist father. Ms. Van Doren is honored to be an Astral Artist, a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow, and as the recipient of a Beebe Grant she spent the 2011-2012 season based in Paris.

Visit Yulia at |

About Daniel Taylor
An exclusive recording artist for Sony Classical Masterworks, Daniel Taylor is simply one of the most sought-after countertenors in the world. His discography of more than 100 recordings includes the 2017 Juno Award nominated Four Thousand Winter with the Trinity Choir, and its companion release The Tree of Life. Other recorded highlights include Bach Cantatas/Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner (Deutsche Grammophone Archiv and SDG); Renaissance duets with Bowman/Actor Ralph Fiennes/TEM (BIS); Handel’s Rinaldo with Bartoli /AAM/Hogwood (Decca); Cantatas “Before Bach” with Collegium Vocale /Herrewege (Harmonia Mundi); Sakamoto’s pop-opera “Life” with the Dalai Lama and Salman Rushdie (Sony); Bach Cantatas with Bach Collegium Japan (BIS); a Bach recital with the Theatre of Early Music and a recital of Shakespeare’s songs (Sony); Vivaldi Gloria with the Bethlehem Bach Choir/Funfgeld (Analekta); Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater (BIS); and four recordings of Handel’s Messiah with Kammerchor Stuttgart/Bernius (Carus), American Bach Soloists/Thomas (Koch), a CD/DVD with Tafelmusik (Bravo Television), and a live recording with the New York Philharmonic/Rilling. Daniel has recorded the CD/DVD of Bach’s Mass in B minor with the Ensemble Orchestral Paris/Nelson (EMI Virgin) and also a CD with Kammerchor Stuttgart/Bernius (Carus). Recent recordings include Bach Cantatas with the Magdalena Consort/Chandos, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with Kammerchor Stuttgart/Bernius (Carus), Handel’s Judas Maccabeus with Clarion/Fox (Telarc) and Handel’s Messiah with the Handel & Haydn Society/Christophers (Coro) and the Montreal Symphony/Nagano (Universal). Daniel can also be heard on recordings of Bach’s St. John Passion with the Bethlehem Bach Choir/Funfgeld (Analekta), a soundtrack with Cirque du Soleil (Universal), and a recital recording for Sony entitled “Come Again, Sweet Love.”

Recognized as “Canada’s star countertenor” and “Canada’s most prolific recording artist”, Daniel has received invitations from the world’s preeminent early and contemporary music ensembles, appearing in opera (Metropolitan Opera, Glyndebourne, San Francisco, Rome, Welsh National Opera, Canadian Opera, Opera North, Montreal Opera and Munich); oratorio (Gabrieli Consort, Monteverdi Choir/English Baroque Soloists, Bach Collegium Japan, Les Arts Florissants, Berlin Akademie fur Alte Musik, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, King’s Consort); symphonic works (Cleveland, St. Louis, Lisbon, Philadelphia, Tonhalle Zurich, Toronto, Gothenburg, Rotterdam, Montreal); recital (Vienna Konzerthaus, Frick Collection, New York, Forbidden Concert Hall, Beijing, Lufthansa Baroque Festival, Carnegie and Wigmore Hall, London) and film (Podeswa’s Five Senses for Fineline – winner at Cannes and also of a Genie). Daniel’s debut at Glyndebourne in Peter Sellars’ staging of Handel’s Theodora (recorded for Erato) followed his operatic debut in Jonathan Miller’s production of Handel’s Rodelinda (EMI). He then performed the title role in Gluck’s Orfeo at the Edinburgh Festival. His North American operatic debut was in Handel’s Cesare at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. More recently Daniel was featured in the world premiere of Robert Lepage’s production of Ades’ The Tempest, as well as Britten’s Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Other career highlights include Handel’s Messiah with San Francisco Symphony/Christophers, St. Louis Symphony/Christophers, Dallas Symphony/Rilling, Tafelmusik and Philharmonia Baroque/McGegan; Handel’s Rinaldo with the Academy of Ancient Music/Hogwood, Munich Opera House/Bickett and Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires; Handel’s Israel in Egypt with the Cleveland Orchestra/McGegan and the BBC Proms with the English Baroque Soloists/Gardiner; Handel’s Saul with Bachakademie Stuttgart/ Rilling (for Hänssler Classics); Orff’s Carmina Burana with National Arts Centre Orchestra /Matheus, Taiwan National Symphony/Grossman (Koch) and Toronto Symphony/Oundjan; Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the National Arts Centre/Pinnock and Tonhalle Zurich Orchestra/McCreesh; Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Madrid National Orchestra/Goodwin; Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with the Philadelphia Orchestra/Dutoit; Buxtehude Cantatas with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Koopman (Channel Classics); and Schnittke’s Faust Cantata with the Rotterdam Philharmonic/Gergiev. With the Gabrieli Consort/McCreesh, Daniel toured Europe in Purcell’s Odes and Dido and Aeneas, as well as appearing in recital on Polish Television. With the Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner, Daniel appeared on the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage joining in concerts and recordings across Europe and North America. Daniel also sang at a Pow-Wow of First Nations in Alberta and on Parliament Hill for Queen Elizabeth and the Prime Minister of Canada. He appeared on German Television for the Prime Minister of Germany, on Spanish Television for the Queen of Spain and in a recital for the King and Queen of Sweden.

As an educator, Daniel has offered master classes at the Beijing Conservatory, the Sao Paolo Conservatory, at the Royal Academy, the Guildhall and the Royal College of Music. He has also given classes at leading Universities across North America.

Daniel is Head of Early Music and Professor of Voice at the University of Toronto, Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa and an Artist-in-Residence at the L’Opera de Montreal. Daniel is Artistic Director and Conductor of the Choir and Orchestra of the Theatre of Early Music, which he founded in 2002 and which performs more than 30 concerts every year in concert halls all over the world. He is also Artistic Director of the Quebec International Festival of Sacred Music.

Visit Daniel Taylor at |

About Sam Levine
Sam Levine has emerged as a “wonderfully appealing,” “ardent tenor” (The New York Times) making a name for himself across a wide variety of repertoire. A recent recipient of the Artist Diploma in Opera Studies at the Juilliard School, he appeared in the 2016-17 season as Váňa Kudrjaš in Káťa Kabanová at Juilliard, as Joe and Marcus in the world premiere of Three Way at Nashville Operaand the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lurcanio in R.B. Schlather’s workshop production of Ariodante at National Sawdust, as El Remendado and Don Jose in Carmen with Boston Lyric Opera and Bay Chamber Concerts, respectively, and as Viktor Frankenstein in Matthew Ozawa’s production of Frankenstein at West Edge Opera. He is a proud 2017 recipient of the Novick Career Advancement Grant from Juilliard and a 2017 Grant Winner at the Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competition. Upcoming engagements include debuts at Opera Philadelphia, Opera Columbus, and the Houston Symphony.

Highlights of the 2015-16 season included critically-acclaimed performances of Le Mari in Les Mamelles de Tiresias, recital appearances with Steven Blier under the auspices of NYFOS@Juilliard and the 5 Boroughs Music Festival, and First Armed Guard in Die Zauberflöte, all at Juilliard; Testo in Monteverdi’s Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda with Cantata Profana; a debut with Bard SummerScape in two roles in James Darrah’s production of Mascagni’s Iris; and his role debut as Lenski in Eugene Onegin with Eugene Opera, which won critical praise for “mastery of character and seamless legato.” (The Register-Guard) Other recent highlights include Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Boston Lyric Opera, Don Jose in Carmen with Savannah Voice Festival, Narraboth in Salome with Virginia Opera, and the dual roles of Testo in Monteverdi’s Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and Noah in the world premiere of Lembit Beecher’s I Have No Stories to Tell You with Gotham Chamber Opera (called “eloquent, full-bodied,” “bright-voiced and skillfully-played” by the Wall Street Journal and “well-sung” by the New York Times).

A champion of new and contemporary music, Levine has appeared in many noted productions. World and North American premieres include the roles of Traveler in James MacMillan’s Clemency with Boston Lyric Opera (which was recorded and released by the BIS Records), Léon in the new performing edition of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Wexford Festival Opera, 1st American Tailor in Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Last Savage with The Santa Fe Opera, Andy in Olga Neuwirth’s Lost Highway at the Miller Theater, and Man/Neighbor/Ravan in Jack Perla’s River of Light with Houston Grand Opera East + West, as well as Lembit Beecher’s I Have No Stories to Tell You at Gotham Chamber Opera and Opera Philadelphia, Three Way with Nashville Opera, American Opera Projects, and BAM.

Other credits have included Fenton in Sir John in Love (Odyssey Opera) Don Ottavio (Aspen Opera Theater, Yale Opera), Janicku in The Diary of One Who Vanished, Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas (both with Yale Opera), the title role of Kurt Weill’s Der Protagonist (Fire Island Opera Festival), Mambre in Mose in Egitto (Chicago Opera Theater), Normanno in Lucia di Lammermoor (Arizona Opera), Massenet’s Werther and Gounod’s Faust (Opera Fort Collins, cover for The Santa Fe Opera). In concert, Levine has sung Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, Bernstein’s Mass, Handel’s Messiah, Vaughan Williams’ On Wenlock Edge, Bach’s Kantata 163, and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9; he has appeared with New York Festival of Song, The Tanglewood Festival, the Orchestra Sinfonico di Milano, at Chicago’s Symphony Center and Harris Theater, and at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall. He has won awards from Opera Index, Inc, the Liederkanz Foundation, and the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, who presented him at Lincoln Center debut, where he won praise for his performance of “Salut, demeure chaste et pure” from Faust: “[Levine’s] voice has a nice, even quality, dark at the bottom, with a ping on top, and a fine high “C”.” (Brooklyn Eagle)

An alumnus of the young artist training programs of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, The Santa Fe Opera, and The Tanglewood Music Festival, Levine holds degrees from Yale University and The Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. With his wife, American mezzo-soprano Cecelia Hall, Mr. Levine lives in Frankfurt, Germany.

About Alex Rosen
A native of La Cañada, CA, is a second-year candidate for the Artist Diploma in Opera Studies at the Juilliard School, studying with Edith Wiens. Prior to his arrival in New York, he was twice a Studio Artist with Wolf Trap Opera and a Fellow at the Ravinia Steans Music Institute. With Juilliard415, he sang under William Christie, in concerts including excerpts from the operas of Rameau and Monteverdi’s Il ballo delle ingrate. With the Juilliard Orchestra, he sang as the bass soloist in Mozart’s Requiem and the role of Dikoj in Juilliard’s production of Kát’a Kabanová. This season at Juilliard, he will sing the roles of Sir John Falstaff in Die Lustige Weiber von Windsor, and Thésée in Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie. Additionally, this season, he will sing Handel’s Messiah with Portland Baroque Orchestra and Houston Symphony Orchestra, the role of Seneca in L’incoronazione di Poppea with Cincinnati Opera, and Haydn’s Creation and Händel’s Acis and Galatea with Les Arts Florissants.

About the Houston Symphony
During the 2016-17 season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its third season with Music Director Andrés Orozco- Estrada, and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring and recording activities. The Houston Symphony, one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $33.9 million, the full-time ensemble of 87 professional musicians presents nearly 170 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony’s four Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 900 community-based performances each year, reaching thousands of people in Greater Houston. For tickets and more information, please visit or call 713-224-7575.

Vanessa Astros: (713) 337-8560,
Mireya Reyna: (713) 337-8557,


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