'The Creation' covers a lot of ground with grace and some surprises.

TAMPA — The Creation has it all. Surprisingly "modern" harmonies in the opening orchestral section that suggest the earth "without form, and void." An operatic warmth to the chorus and three soloists representing archangels and Adam and Eve. Plenty of humor, such as the contrabassoon blast to depict "heavy beasts" or the droll phrasing of the "sinuous" worm by bass soloist Leon Williams.

Haydn came to oratorio writing late, and he had a lot to say in his three-part Creation. With a text from Genesis, the Psalms and Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, it covers the first six days of creation in the first two parts. The third part has Adam and Eve praising God and expressing their love for each other.

Florida Orchestra music director Stefan Sanderling, in his first appearance of the season, led the orchestra, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and a vocal trio Friday night. These musical forces almost overflowed the cramped stage of Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center.

Williams shone in his dramatic, communicative performance of recitatives. Soprano Heidi Grant Murphy came into her own with the bird trills in "On mighty pens." Tenor Bryon Grohman had a reedy tone.

This was the first performance of the Master Chorale to be prepared by new artistic director James Bass, and the group sounded great in the counterpoint of "Awake the harp."

Principal flute Clay Ellerbroek had a busy, brilliant night. Michael Sponseller added a nice period touch on fortepiano.

The Creation is a work that you want to follow along in the libretto in the playbill, but I had to squint to read it in the dark. The house lights should have been turned up. The oratorio is more than 100 minutes long, so Sanderling broke it up with intermissions after parts one and two. One break is necessary, but two of them made for a drawn-out evening, and I had to leave early to meet my deadline.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716. He blogs on Critics Circle at tampabay.com/blogs/critics.

.FAST FACTS

'The Creation'

Haydn's oratorio repeats at 8 p.m. today at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $20-$67. (727) 892-3337 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286;

floridaorchestra.org.

'The Creation' covers a lot of ground with grace and some surprises. 10/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 23, 2010 12:31am]

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