Sills is heard in The Creation with John McCollum and Ara Berberian conducted by Erich Leinsdorf and Fleming in a James Levineled Die Schöpfung with Gregory Turay and René Pape, both with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall.

If anyone should ask me to name the ten musical works I couldn’t live without, Haydn’s sublime late choral masterpiece would definitely be on that list. That’s one reason I was startled to realize it hadn’t found its way onto Trove Thursday before now.

My first encounter with Die Schöpfung was via the classic Herbert von Karajan recording that I borrowed on LPs from the public library when I was around 13. As Gundula Janowitz was an early enthusiasm of mine, I initially checked out the Haydn to hear her and was immediately bowled over by the piece.

I didn’t get a chance to hear it live until 1980 when I attended a James Conlon-led performance at the Cincinnati May Festival, with festival regulars Benita Valente, John Aler and John Shirley-Quirk, there was the usual huge chorus which made a mighty noise with the glorious Handel-influenced choruses that crown the oratorio.

After Boston, Levine also led the work with Metropolitan Opera forces at Carnegie Hall in 2002, again with Pape, plus Hei-Kyung Hong and Ian Bostridge. Never a Hong fan, I found her efficient rather than inspired, and though Bostridge and Pape were fine the afternoon failed to jell.

I’ve heard the work many other times over the years, but the last four instances have featured period-instrument orchestras and smallish choruses. John Eliot Gardiner atypically used five singers rather than just three, while the radiant Garbriel and Eva of Sandrine Piau was the common feature of both a Paris concert under Hervé Niquet and William Christie’s glorious version at Alice Tully Hall in 2018.

The Les Arts Florissants Haydn helped cleanse my ears (and eyes) of the misbegotten staging earlier that year at Lincoln Center by La Fura del Bals which was drably conducted by Laurence Equilbey.

Die Jahreszeiten, Haydn’s other miraculous oratorio.  with Ileana Cotrubas, Francisco Araiza, and José van Dam led by Levine appeared on Trove Thursday six years ago.

Besides today’s Haydn work, I came up with this shared repertoire for Sills and Fleming: Faust, Manon, Louise, Lucrezia Borgia, The Merry Widow, La Traviata, Don Giovanni, Daphne (well, just the final scene for Sills), Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate…there must be others?

And what other roles should they have shared? Why no Sills Sonnambula, a role Fleming performed when she was covering for Ruth Ann Swenson? Wouldn’t Fleming early on have been a captivating Baby Doe? What about a Sills Nozze di Figaro Countess or Arabella?

 Haydn: The Creation

Gabriel/Eve: Beverly Sills
Uriel: John McCollum
Raphael/Adam: Ara Berberian

New England Conservatory Chorus
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Erich Leinsdorf

Symphony Hall, Boston
22 February 1968

Haydn: Die Schöpfung

Gabriel/Eva: Renée Fleming
Uriel: Gregory Turay
Raphael/Adam: René Pape

Tanglewood Festival Chorus
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: James Levine

Symphony Hall, Boston
11 December 1998

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