Kirill Petrenko conducts Mendelssohn’s “Elias”

Kirill Petrenko (photo: Monika Rittershaus)

“Strong, zealous and, yes, even bad-tempered, angry and brooding” – that is how Felix Mendelssohn envisioned the biblical prophet Elijah, the protagonist of his oratorio of the same name. The composer dramatically portrays a man who struggles to bring the people back to the true faith – in vain, as he realizes in the end. Moving arias and vocal scenes as well as powerful choral writing make Mendelssohn’s oratorio one of the greatest religious works of the Romantic period. The outstanding baritone Christian Gerhaher will be heard as Elijah, conducted by Kirill Petrenko.

Berliner Philharmoniker

Kirill Petrenko conductor

Elsa Dreisig soprano

Wiebke Lehmkuhl contralto

Daniel Behle tenor

Christian Gerhaher bass

Rundfunkchor Berlin

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

Elijah, Oratorio, op. 70

Dates and Tickets


Kirill Petrenko

Kirill Petrenko has been chief conductor and artistic director of the Berliner Philharmoniker since the 2019/20 season. Born in Omsk in Siberia, he received his training first in his home town and later in Austria. He established his conducting career in opera with positions at the Meininger Theater and the Komische Oper Berlin. From 2013 to 2020, Kirill Petrenko was general music director of Bayerische Staatsoper. He has also made guest appearances at the world’s leading opera houses, including Wiener Staatsoper, Covent Garden in London, the Opéra national in Paris, the Metropolitan Opera in New York and at the Bayreuth Festival. Moreover, he has conducted the major international symphony orchestras – in Vienna, Munich, Dresden, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Rome, Chicago, Cleveland and Israel. Since his debut in 2006, a variety of programmatic themes have emerged in his work together with the Berliner Philharmoniker. These include work on the orchestra’s core Classical-Romantic repertoire, most notably with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony when he took up his post. Unjustly forgotten composers such as Josef Suk and Erich Wolfgang Korngold are another of Kirill Petrenko’s interests. Russian works are also highlighted, with performances of Tchaikovsky’s operas Mazeppa, Iolanta and The Queen of Spades attracting particular attention recently.

Elsa Dreisig

Soprano Elsa Dreisig made her debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2017 under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle. In performances of Haydn’s Creation in Berlin, Salzburg, Lucerne and Paris, she was acclaimed for her radiant high notes and charismatic presence. Since the 2017/18 season, the French-Danish singer has been an ensemble member of Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden, where her roles have included Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Violetta (La traviata), Natascha in the world premiere of Beat Furrer’s Violetter Schnee and Gretchen in Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust. Elsa Dreisig has also made guest appearances at leading houses throughout Europe – as Massenet’s Manon at Zurich Opera House, as Micaëla in Carmen at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte at the Salzburg Festival. Elsa Dreisig studied at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse in Paris and was awarded first prize at the prestigious Operalia Singing Competition in 2016. She was named “singing discovery” at the Victoires de la Musique Classique and was voted Young Artist of the Year in a critics’ poll by Opernwelt magazine. As a concert singer, she has recently toured Europe with the London Symphony Orchestra as well as the Staatskapelle Berlin, the Vienna and Munich Philharmonic orchestras, the Orchestre Français des Jeunes and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

Wiebke Lehmkuhl

Wiebke Lehmkuhl impresses listeners with her rich alto as well as with her broad repertoire as “one of the very few singers who perform Wagner and Bach at a stylistically accurate world standard” (Die Welt). The musician, who comes from Oldenburg, first studied the flute before training as a singer under Ulla Groenewold and in the class of Hanna Schwarz at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg. Today she is a regular guest at the Tonhalle Zürich, the Leipzig Gewandhaus and with the Orchestre de Paris. She made her debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2013 alongside Christian Gerhaher in Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe's Faust and has since been repeatedly invited by the orchestra. She will appear at the Europakonzert in Barcelona in May 2023 under the baton of Kirill Petrenko. The young alto has worked with conductors such as Marc Minkowski, Franz-Welser Möst, Riccardo Chailly, Kent Nagano, Christian Thielemann and Daniel Harding and has also had the opportunity to perform under the direction of Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Frans Brüggen. As an opera singer, Wiebke Lehmkuhl can be seen regularly at the Bayreuth Festival, where she caused a sensation as Erda (Das Rheingold), among other roles. The artist has also sung this role at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, the Grand Théâtre de Genève, the Opéra de Bastille in Paris, the Royal Opera House in London and the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus.

Daniel Behle

Daniel Behle is a tenor who “with his creamy, sensuous and rhetorically incisive voice” moves in the music “as if on velvet paws”, “even where he ventures dramatic outbursts” (Stereo). He is equally successful in concert, lieder and opera – with a repertoire that ranges from works of the Baroque era to the music of the present day. Daniel Behle regularly performs with the leading orchestras and works with conductors such as Marek Janowski, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Franz Welser-Möst. He made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2017 in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis conducted by Christian Thielemann. Daniel Behle appeared at the Bayreuth Festival in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Tannhäuser and made an acclaimed role debut at Oper Dortmund in 2019 as Lohengrin, in which he “impressed with his perfectly controlled voice” and “stood out with his excellent articulation of the text” (Opernglas). Further stage engagements have taken him to Nederlandse Opera (as the King’s Son in Königskinder), the Zurich Opera House (as Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail) and the Semperoper Dresden (as Loge in Das Rheingold and David in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg). In 2020 he was named “Singer of the Year” by Opus Klassik. Daniel Behle is also making a name for himself as a composer, most recently with his first operetta Hopfen und Malz.

Christian Gerhaher

“I can’t listen to Schubert, write emails on the side and think I can understand the beauty of this music. I need time, peace and concentration.” For Christian Gerhaher, music has something existential: “Music by Bach, Beethoven, Schubert,” he says, “is no less a pleasure than music by the Velvet Underground or The Cure. It deals with death, loss and loneliness, with the absence of ideal perfection, with problematic states of mind and deficits.  Music often creates the shock that makes you long for consolation in the first place – and then, wonderfully, it provides it itself.” International critics agree that no other baritone combines existential profundity and vocal beauty better than the Bavarian-born singer, with his beguiling mixture of rich depth and captivating head notes. All this makes Christian Gerhaher one of the most sought-after singers in his field. He has enjoyed a close artistic partnership with the Berliner Philharmoniker for almost 20 years, including the 2013/14 season as Artist in Residence. Joint projects over the years have included performances of Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri, Bach'’ St Matthew and St John Passions, and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. Most recently, Christian Gerhaher was a guest soloist in Alexander Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony conducted by Kirill Petrenko.

Rundfunkchor Berlin

Brilliant, flexible, transparent, versatile, precise – these are the words used by concert critics to describe the sound of the Rundfunkchor Berlin. “There is probably no other choir that does so many different things so well and that can deal with such a broad repertoire and such different formats,” says Gijs Leenaars, chief conductor and artistic director of the choir since the 2015/16 season. The Rundfunkchor Berlin, founded in 1925, is a partner of major orchestras and conductors thanks to its outstanding abilities and versatility. In “sing-along concerts”, enthusiastic amateurs are also frequently invited to make music together. The Rundfunkchor Berlin has performed regularly with the Berliner Philharmoniker since the early 1990s. Previous projects include acclaimed staged performances of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew and St John Passions with Sir Simon Rattle and Peter Sellars. The collaboration has continued under chief conductor Kirill Petrenko, such as in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony when he took office in August 2019, and later in concert performances of the Tchaikovsky operas Mazeppa and Iolanta. Most recently, the choir participated in Luigi Dallapiccola’s short opera The Prisoner under the direction of Kirill Petrenko.

Christian Gerhaher (photo: Sony Classical / Gregor Hohenberg)

Who was Elijah?

On the protagonist and narrative of Mendelssohn’s oratorio