Even among singers, this one’s pretty swift: Fox Island baritone Charles Robert Stephens, who was scheduled to be one of the four soloists for Tacoma Symphony’s annual performance of the “Messiah” Friday night, has bumped them at the last minute to fill in for an ailing Sanford Sylvan with Seattle Symphony. Tacoma baritone Barry Johnson has agreed to stand in for Stephens in Tacoma.
The soloist roles for the “Messiah,” Handel’s beloved oratorio telling the Christmas and Easter stories through aria and chorus, are vital to the success of a performance. Baritone arias include the famous earthquake recitative, the aria “The Trumpet Shall Sound” and “Why Do the Nations So Furiously Rage Together?” Stephens, who is a regular soloist with local ensembles such as the TSO and the Northwest Sinfonietta as well as with chamber groups, left a full career in New York (New York City Opera, and others) to move to Fox Island after the events of September 11, 2001. This will be his debut with the SSO. Sanford Sylvan, whom Stephens replaces, came down with bronchitis this week.
Meanwhile, to replace Stephens the Tacoma Symphony has asked Barry Johnson to step in. Johnson also sings up and down the West Coast, appearing regularly with Seattle Opera and singing and directing for Tacoma Opera. He sang the baritone solo in last year’s TSO “Messiah.”
“We were sorry that Charles left, but it’s a great opportunity for him and we wish him well,” says Andy Buelow, TSO’s executive director. “And we’re deeply grateful to Barry for helping out.”
Tacoma Symphony performs the “Messiah” at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at St. Charles Borromeo church, 7112 S. 12th St., Tacoma. Tickets $25. 253-272-4258, www.tacomasymphony.org
The Seattle Symphony performs the “Messiah” at Benaroya Hall, 3rd Avenue and Union Street, Seattle. Tickets $20-$63. 206-215-4747, www.seattlesymphony.org