Yuletide Alternative


Classical Music

For orchestras that have declared a moratorium on Messiah, a radiant alternative is LEnfance da Christ. A tenor narrator recalls the evangelists of Bach’s Passions, but like the better-known Romeo et Juliette and La Damnation de Faust, this “sacred trilogy” finds Hector Berlioz in a region between opera and symphonic poem. His effects are achieved not by storytelling but through a suite of musical pictures, painted in bewitching splendor. The first tableau centers on Herod. Tormented by dreams of the child come to undo him, he consults a coven of wild soothsayers, who egg him on to slaughter. (Berlioz was a great Shakespearean; the parallel to Macbeth’s second encounter with the witches may be deliberate.) In the second tableau Mary and Joseph flee for Egypt; in the third they arrive in the inhospitable city of Sais, where they find refuge in the house of an infidel. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s performs the work on December 12 at Lincoln Center (Avery Fisher Hall, 212-7216500). In the conductor Roger Norrington (pictured at leit) Berlioz has m ardent and poetic champion. (In John Eliot Gardiner, who has r e c o r d e d L ‘F n fa n re for Erato, he has another.)