At a time of the year when many other collegiate musical organizations are offering pops concerts and academic samplers, William Hatcher and the massed UCLA choral forces turned to Honegger's heady, gaudy, hyper-dramatic oratorio, "Joan of Arc at the Stake."
In any medium, Honegger's style was basically vocal, and the UCLA production Friday evening at Royce Hall didn't lack for voices--11 soloists, headed by actress Fionnula Flanagan in the title role, and 250 in the combined choirs of the UCLA Choral Union, accompanied by the University Orchestra.
For the most part, the Bruin effort matched quantity with quality. The big chorus sang the uncredited translation clearly and fluently, needing the numbers to augment a fundamentally light sound. The orchestra proved less suave and more explosive, alert to Hatcher's guidance in a well-paced reading.
The most troubling elements of the performance were physical balances, and an ambivalent focus, inherited from Honegger and the librettist Paul Claudel. Flanagan and Norman Welsh (Brother Dominic) were amplified, and even so, Flanagan's raptured voice disappeared in the final, radiantly overwhelming climax.