An Israeli sings the Pope’s Christmas Mass

An Israeli sings the Pope’s Christmas Mass


norman lebrecht

December 28, 2014

It’s one of the big calls in any singer’s career: are you free to sing ‘Et Incarnatus Est’ for the Pope on Christmas Eve? Oh, and a global TV audience of 700 million.

Chen Reiss, a London-based Israeli soprano, shot off to Rome and delivered the credo to perfection.

chen reiss1

Pope Francis, informed of the casting only a day beforehand, is reported to have said: ‘I approve very much, because Mary was also Jewish.’

Manfred Honeck conducted.



  • John Borstlap says:

    What an incredibly beautiful piece this is, again and again and again.

  • Pete S. says:

    Wonderful singing, but the person who did the crappy recording should be thrown in hell or alternatively listen to André Rieu recordings in eternity.

    • Donna H. says:

      Dear Pete,

      My deepest gratitude for the brilliance and clarity of your reply.

      I’m not nuts …worst audio ever. Couldn’t have said it better!

      Thank You!!!

  • milka says:

    That one feels compelled to make the observation of an ” Israeli”
    singing Mozart at a pope’s mass is deplorable. If she was hired to sing because she was a superb singer, well
    and good –if she was hired to sing
    because she was an Israeli singer is despicable no matter how it is dressed up . It is as if to say ,see how broad minded we are , we even hire an Israeli
    to sing at a Catholic mass.I suppose we will be reading next that an” Israeli
    pianist is playing music by that German composer Beethoven .

    • William Safford says:

      I think that you have it backward.

      • Marshall says:

        Yes, someone is not living in the real world. Not only did the Pope break with tradtion, in this very sacred moment of the mass by using this section of Mozart’s mass ( and in the world of the Vatican that took courage) but he thought it delightful that a great singer hired for the job because of her skill happened to be Jewish. It was significant that she was not a Catholic-and the fact that it was not an issue is something good. Catholicism and the Vatican have gone a long way in a short time. By the way, I watched it, and was a beautiful moment.

        This Pope has taken some great steps (coming is his encyclical on global warming which the right wing in America-Catholic and Protestant will go crazy over)-it’s too bad that he’s already so old.. Also given some of his moves already, and the dressing down of the Vatican bureaucracy the other day, I do fear for his future-it won’t be the first time that something happens.

  • Donna H. says:

    Both points made clear.

    Watch the today’s 60minutes…it makes it abundantly clear as to the Popes message.

    I have to say, his efforts are well received, given his knowledge of current day issues. No pope has ever done this in the history of the Vatican.

  • milka says:

    Marshall & Donna— remember
    the Pope is a Jesuit..

  • Pete S. says:

    Anybody notice the unusually numerous security guards in suits standing around (not only the traditional Swiss guard)? I guess they are fearing another “pussy riot” from the Ukrainian rent-a-prostitute “political” “activists”.

    • Pete S. says:

      Now this could be also a very smart move by the Vatican to hire an Israeli singer, because Pussy riot do attack Christian religion regularly, but never Jewish sanctity…

  • Steven Hill says:

    It’s one of the big calls in any singer’s career: are you free to participate in an event of superstitious nonsense?

  • Milka says:

    It’s not that one participates in nonsense ,it is for a singer how big an audience
    one has by being part of this international show ,and how to parlay concert dates from this appearance.
    A TV audience of 700 million should keep the lady busy for quite a while .
    Marshall , the Pope is quite safe as
    long as he does not mess with church dogma , being a Jesuit he knows the game better than most and one cannot but marvel how he plays his audience like a truly great
    virtuoso .

  • Nycmusic says:

    The problem is that the Catholic Mass is not a concert; it’s an act of worship. One should believe what one sings. I’m surprised that the pope, with all of his dislike of liturgical pomposity allowed this “performance”, one appropriate for a concert hall but not a mass. And Marshall, friend, I would wait until the global warming encyclical comes out before you start predicting what the “right wing” will say. The encyclical might just say things you may not like very much (like criticizing population control groups linked to the global warming agenda), so watch out. It was a beautiful performance but liturgical rubrics makes it clear that the Divine Mass is not a performance.

    • Donna H. says:

      You’re so right.

      It is a a Divine Mass.

      Thank you

    • Donna H. says:

      I agree with your analysis.

      But, what are your thoughts on the most recent reply by Milka?

      Yes, it was ceremonial, but the Catholic Mass is considered a Divine Mass, regardless of the Pope’s rendition.

      Wouldn’t you agree?

  • Milka says:

    Every mass is a performance ritual.
    There is nothing divine in the ritual .The ritual as all religious performance rituals
    has evolved over the years to suit the occasion. All is choreographed by
    clergy of whatever religion to impress the great unwashed and hopefully keep them in line.Name a religion
    and you have a performance ritual .
    Liturgical rubrics not withstanding
    it is a “show ” , & as attributed to Wilde “the best show in town .”

  • Donna H. says:

    January 1, 2015

    In the spirit of the new year, let us all reflect on our previous year’s differences.

    In the trials and tribulations grounded in the roots of religion, race or creed.

    And start anew…

    …if only for a moment.