SAT 3 DEC 7.30PM Concert Hall, QPAC
Conductor Gordon Hamilton The Australian Voices Soprano Natalie Christie Peluso Mezzo Soprano Luciana Mancini Tenor Charles Daniels Baritone David Wakeham
PROGRAM NOTES George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Messiah: An oratoria (HWV 56) words selected from the Holy Bible by Charles Jennens (1700-1773)
Although Handel had written two oratorios in his twenties during his time in Rome, it was Italian opera that had made him famous. Since coming to England he had written more than 35 operas (Julius Caesar, Alcina and Rinaldo are probably the best-known today). His first English oratorio, Esther (1718, revised 1732), owed a great deal to opera. It was in three acts and lasted three hours – the usual length of a night at the opera – and the characters are richly drawn. But Handel had also drawn on another tradition: his grand and formal Coronation Anthems (such as Zadok the Priest) with their strong chorus writing. The combination was a great success, but Handel remained committed to his Italian operas, writing over the next nine years only the occasional oratorio by way of variation to his opera seasons. In 1741, however, things changed dramatically for Handel. The public had grown tired of opera, and his latest offering, Deidamia, had been a box-office failure. Handel never wrote another opera. Instead, he at last turned his attention seriously towards oratorio, and, working at speed as usual, in just over three weeks produced the score of Messiah. What he wrote broke new ground in the very genre he had created. Handel’s previous English oratorios were either stories from the Old Testament or morality play-type conversations between allegorical figures. But Messiah, despite its title, is not a dramatisation of the life of Christ: it is a reflection on the significance of Christ’s life and death to the Christian believer, a meditation on the supreme goodness of God in offering to the world his only Son;
on the sufferings of this sacrificial victim; and on the hope of salvation for humankind now that the risen Christ stands at the right hand of God. The libretto approaches Christ in a round-about way, through Old Testament prophecies, letters written to the early Christian communities after the death of Christ, and the apocalyptic visions of St John, author of the Book of Revelation. The man who took on the ambitious task of encompassing such profound concepts in words was Charles Jennens, who had provided Handel with the librettos of Saul and Belshazzar, and possibly of Israel in Egypt. It was some two years before Jennens heard the fruits of his labour, because Handel, having completed the score, promptly took it with him to Dublin, where it received its first performances in April 1742. The general opinion was overwhelmingly positive: ‘Words are wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring crouded Audience,’ ran the review in The Dublin Journal. ‘The Sublime, the Grand, and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear.’ As in Dublin, the first London performances of Messiah the following year took place in Lent, as opera performances were prohibited during this period. (As performances of Messiah spread beyond London, the work came to be associated more with choral festivals and the timing became more flexible. The tradition of performing Messiah at Christmas seems to have started in Boston in the 19th century.) When Handel started his tradition of an annual Foundling Hospital oratorio performance, it was Messiah that he performed every year. Such was the work’s popularity that from 1753 onwards, he also finished his Covent Garden season every year with performances of Messiah.
PROGRAM NOTES During the 19th century, carried along by Victorian ideals of progress and improvement, British choral societies produced larger and larger-scale performances, culminating in the Great Handel Commemoration Festival of 1859, where it was performed by a chorus of 2,765 and an orchestra of 460 to an audience of 81,000 people. But by the 1880s, there were some performances trying to recapture something closer to the original scale of Handel’s performances, and today it is possible to hear everything from sing-along Messiah with hundreds of choristers to chamber versions with one voice to a part. Not to mention Norman Miller’s soul version with gospel and R&B performers, Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration. Or the Carolina Ballet’s dance adaptation. Messiah, it seems, has something for everyone. Abridged from a note by Natalie Shea © Symphony Australia
Part the First Sinfony Comfort ye my people (Tenor) Ev’ry valley shall be exalted (Tenor) And the glory of the Lord (Chorus) Thus saith the Lord of hosts (Bass) But who may abide the day of His coming (Bass) And he shall purify the sons of Levi (Chorus) Behold, a virgin shall conceive (Alto) O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (Alto and Chorus) For behold, darkness shall cover the earth (Bass) The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light (Bass) For unto us a child is born (Chorus) Pifa There were shepherds abiding in the fields (Soprano)
And lo, the angel of the Lord (Soprano) And the angel said unto them (Soprano) And suddenly there was with the angel (Soprano) Glory to God in the highest (Chorus) Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion (Soprano) Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened (Alto) He shall feed his flock like a shepherd (Alto) His yoke is easy (Chorus)
Interval 20 minutes
Part the Second Behold the Lamb of God (Chorus) He was despised and rejected of men (Alto) Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Chorus) And with his stripes we are healed (Chorus) All we like sheep have gone astray (Chorus) Thy rebuke hath broken his heart (Tenor) Behold and see if there be any sorrow (Tenor) He was cut off (Tenor) But thou didst not leave his soul in hell (Tenor) Why do the nations so furiously rage together (Bass) He that dwelleth in heaven (Tenor) Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron (Tenor) Hallelujah (Chorus)
There will be a short pause between Parts II and III, during which patrons are asked to remain in the auditorium.
Part the Third I know that my Redeemer liveth (Soprano) Since by man came death (Chorus) Behold, I tell you a mystery (Bass) The trumpet shall sound (Bass) Worthy is the Lamb (Chorus) Amen (Chorus)
BIOGRAPHIES Gordon Hamilton Conductor
Having freelanced for five years in Germany, composer and conductor Gordon Hamilton moved back to his homeland in 2009 to take over as Artistic Director of one of Australia’s foremost vocal ensembles, The Australian Voices. Of their 2013 US tour The New York Times commented “... it was as if the gates of heaven had opened.” Gordon’s 2014 work Ghosts in the Orchestra (commissioned by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra) saw a choir stand among the orchestra players, prompting them with sung instructions. Gordon’s 50-minute choral opera MOON (2011), relates the story of Diana the lonely moon who sends out her moonbeams in search of love. MOON has toured Australia, Germany and to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Under a more cheeky guise, Gordon reassembles the contributions of unwitting collaborators in ways never intended. In mock-reverence to Ke$ha, his Tra$h Ma$h (for choir, 2012) reassembles fleeting grabs from pop songs. His Toy Story 3 = Awesome! (for choir, 2011) – lauded by The Sydney Morning Herald as “one of the coolest/nerdiest/funniest music videos doing the cyber rounds” – sets a stream of inane consciousness as spat out by his own Facebook news feed.
The Australian Voices
QSO Ensemble-in-Residence It is with high artistic energy that The Australian Voices (now in its 21st year) commission and perform the works of Australian composers.
Recently The Australian Voices have recorded new works intended for “performance” on YouTube. Hamilton’s composition The 9 Cutest Things That Ever Happened (2013) has been viewed over one million times. In 2014 they made international headlines with a video of Rob Davidson’s Not Now, Not Ever! (2014), a musicalisation of Julia Gillard’s ‘misogyny’ speech. Its album for Warner Classics (2012) was observed by Gramophone Magazine to “boast a crisp, resonant delivery of the sonic goods under Hamilton’s confident direction.” In 2013 they released an songbook with Edition Peters. Recently the group has brought its distinct sound to China, the UK, Germany, USA and Palestine. In 2015 they will collaborate with Topology in Unrepresentative Swill, a concert inspired by prime-ministerial speeches.
Natalie Christie Peluso Soprano
Natalie is one of Australia’s foremost performers with a voice described by one London critic as full of “youthful, delicious beauty.” Natalie has performed leading roles with Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera and Opera Australia, and is an accomplished concert artist and recitalist. Future engagements include Bach’s B Minor Mass conducted by Stephen Layton with Queensland Symphony Orchestra; Rose Maybud in Ruddigore for Opera Queensland and both Ottavia/Drusilla in Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea with Pinchgut Opera.
BIOGRAPHIES Luciana Mancini
(Taverner Consort/EMI) and more than twenty discs of Purcell’s music.
Chilean/Swedish mezzo soprano Luciana Mancini graduated from the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague in both Classical singing and Early music interpretation, studying with Rita Dams, Jill Feldman, Michael Chance, Peter Kooij and Diane Forlano.
Career highlights have included Luigi Nono’s Canti di Vita e Amore (Edinburgh International Festival), Handel’s Esther (sung in Hebrew) in New York, Monteverdi Vespers with the Gabrieli Consort in Venice with Paul McCreesh, Handel’s Belshazzar at the Théâtre de Champs Elysées in Paris and Messiah at the Musikverein, Vienna with Harnoncourt.
Her most recent appearances include the title role in Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires at Theater Bonn, concerts with Ensemble Pygmalion and Raphael Pichon at the Festivals Chaise-Dieu and Sablé, Pantalis in Boito’s Mefistofele at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden with the Munich Philharmonic, Annio in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito at the Drottningholm Festival, Proserpina in Sasha Waltz’ new staging of Orfeo with the Freiburger Barockorkester under the baton of Pablo Heras-Casado at the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam, the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, in Baden-Baden, Bergen, Opera de Lille and the Staatsoper Berlin. Forthcoming engagements include Bach’s Matthäus Passion with the Nederlandse Bachverening, a new production by Sasha Waltz to mark the opening of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and Galatea in Handel’s Acis, Galatea e Polifemo at the Händelfestspiele Halle.
Charles Daniels Tenor
Charles studied at King’s College, Cambridge, and the Royal College of Music in London. His numerous recordings include St John’s Passion (Portland Baroque Orchestra/ ATMA), Magnificat, Cantata 110 (Netherlands Bach Society/Channel Classics), Athalia (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi) Saul (EMI), The Beggar’s Opera (Hyperion), Schütz Christmas Story (DG), Bach Easter Oratorio
Engagements in 2016/2017 include Vespers with The King’s Consort at the Rheingau Festival, a semi-staged Fairy Queen with the AAM at the Barbican Hall, Mass in B Minor with the BBC Singers, a series of Purcell Programmes with Holland Baroque Society, St Matthew Passion at King’s Place and St John Passion at Bath Abbey.
David Wakeham Baritone
The British-based baritone David Wakeham has established an international reputation, with critically acclaimed performances at La Scala Milano, Komische Oper Berlin, Oper Leipzig, Bayerische Staatsoper München, Staatsoper Stuttgart, and Opera Australia in major roles in the Czech, German and Italian repertoire. He has worked with many renowned conductors and directors, including Sir Andrew Davis, Kyrill Petrenko, Christine Mielitz and Achim Freier. In 2010, he sang the Australian premiere of Ich Wandte mich und sah an alles Unrecht, by Bernd Alois Zimmermann, coupled with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the QSO and Johannes Fritzsch. This continues his concert repertoire which includes Bach’s Magnificat and St. Matthew Passion, Messiah, Brahms Reqiuem, Orff’s Carmina Burana and Mahler’s 8th Symphony.
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