Press Release: American Premiere of Handel's Parnasso in festa at 2016 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy August 5-14

 ABS logo small for patronmail

JEFFREY THOMAS ~ ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
PRESS & MEDIA RELATIONS:
Contact: (415) 621-7900
press@americanbach.org
 

Jeffrey Thomas conducts the North American Premiere of 
HANDEL'S 1734 SERENATA, PARNASSO IN FESTA
at the 
2016 AMERICAN BACH SOLOISTS FESTIVAL & ACADEMY

 

2016-Festival-Parnasso 2



JULY 15, 2016—SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Thanks to the early music movement and the popularity of revivals of Handel’s operas, it is a rare event to experience a Handelian premiere in our day and age. But, just such an opportunity will be offered when the American Bach Soloists present the American premiere of complete performances of the composer’s three-act serenata Parnasso in festa. Admired in Handel’s day for its musical variety, the work fell from the repertory after the composer's death. Since 1971, Parnasso in festa has been presented occasionally in England and Germany, but the ABS Festival & Academy performances under the baton of Jeffrey Thomas will be the first outside of Europe, joining the list of significant ABS Festival premieres, such as Biber's Missa Salisburgensis in 2013 and Marais' opera Sémélé in 2015. The work will be performed in Italian and will feature vocal soloists from the ABS Academy joining the ABS Festival Orchestra, and the American Bach Choir.

A serenata is an operatic work composed for an important celebration or state-level event, such as a Royal Wedding, and Handel created his Parnasso in festa for a major event in 1734: the wedding of Princess Anne, who was one of his former keyboard students, and Prince William of Orange. Elaborate costumes were designed for the singers who reportedly performed the work on a single painted set as an elaborate, and undoubtedly expensive, musical pageant.

Even since Handel’s earliest years in London, he was embraced by the Royal Families. In particular, it was Caroline of Ansbach, Queen Consort to King George II, with whom Handel enjoyed a particularly close and supportive relationship. He gave her music lessons, and she arranged to have her own children—including Anne, the bride in 1734—taught by Handel. In many ways, the appreciation and favor bestowed upon him during the sovereign tenures of George I and George II and their families were, for a time, the most loyal and reliable during all of Handel’s career. His friendship with Caroline was indeed so sincere and honest that when she died rather suddenly, only three and a half years after her daughter, Anne, was married, Handel composed a painfully exquisite funeral anthem, The Ways of Zion do Mourn, that quite palpably reveals Handel’s deep sense of loss. Knowing of Handel’s devotion to Caroline and her children, we understand easily why he was able to compose the extraordinarily beautiful work at hand.

 

The-Music-Party
The Music Party (Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange; Princess Caroline;
Frederick, Prince of Wales; and Princess Amelia, all children of King George II and Caroline of Ansbach, Queen Consort),
1733, by Philip Mercier (1689-1760)


Almost a year before the wedding, Handel’s Athalia, the third in his burgeoning career as a composer of English-language oratorios, premiered in Oxford in July 1733. As it was safe to assume that the Royal Family and the musically sophisticated Londoners were unlikely to have heard it, Handel utilized some of Athalia’s music in his work for Princess Anne’s wedding in March, 1734. That said, moving the entire scenario from Athalia’s Biblical times to a classic mythological setting and resetting his music to a new Italian text required a significant amount of work, and he ended up composing a substantial amount of new music for the serenata. Handel, obviously very happily, applied himself to the labor of developing this festive work, and it contains dozens of beautiful and charming examples of his matchless art.

The cast for the performance was indeed star-studded. The leading role of Apollo, with its 7(!) arias, was taken by Giovanni Carestini, an Italian castrato who had enjoyed enormous successes in Milan, Rome, Vienna, Naples, Venice, and Munich before arriving in London in 1733 to sing in Handel’s productions. The year following the premiere of Parnasso, Carestini took on the title role in Ariodante, known to be immensely difficult and requiring a singer with terrific agility and range. Parnasso’s next largest role, Clio, was sung by Handel’s reigning prima donna, Anna Maria Strada, who performed at least 24 of Handel’s operas, being one of his most faithful singers. A close friend of Handel, Mary Granville, wrote of the soprano, “…her voice is without exception fine, her manner perfection…” Mars was sung by one of Handel’s fellow countrymen, Gustavus Waltz, a fine bass who sang often with Handel and who, as far as we know, sometimes served Handel as a cook (no small assignment or assumption of skill, as Handel was certainly known to be a gourmand). Another important Handelian soprano joined the cast: Marguerita Durastanti’s career, begun in Mantua in 1700, was long and successful. She collaborated with Handel first in La Resurrezione (Rome, 1709), and sang with him continuously for the next fifteen years. Following a nine-year hiatus from London’s theatrical stages, Handel brought her back in 1733, in time to perform the role of the Muse of Epic Poetry, Calliope. In her fifties by then, and having sung throughout Europe and England for almost thirty-five years, Handel’s casting of her gives evidence to her enduring vocal talents.

A Daily Journal reporter who clearly had access to rehearsals for Parnasso left a fascinating first impression of Handel’s new work:

 

“We hear, amongst other public Diversions that are prepared for the solemnity of the approaching Nuptials, there is to be perform’d at the Opera House in the Hay-Market, on Wednesday next [March 13, 1734], a Serenata, call’d Parnasso in Festa. The Fable is, Apollo and the Muses, celebrating the Marriage of Thetis and Peleus. There is one standing Scene which is Mount Parnassus, on which sit Apollo and the Muses, assisted with other proper Characters, emblematically dress’d, the whole Appearance being extreamly magnificent. The Musick is no less entertaining, being contrived with so great a Variety, that all Sorts of Musick are properly introduc’d in single Songs, Duet’s, &c. intermix’d with Chorus’s, some what in the Style of Oratorio’s. People have been waiting with impatience for this Piece, the celebrated Mr. Handel having exerted his utmost Skill in it.” — Daily Journal, March 11, 1734 [original spellings]


Most serenatas were typically performed only once at the special occasion for which they were composed. For example, Bach often composed celebratory cantatas, de facto serenatas, for birthday celebrations or other occasions in honor of his employers. Each one having served its purpose, Bach found ways to reuse the music to meet the needs of his liturgical obligations, and luckily so: the results included stunning sacred works including the “Christmas Oratorio” and the “Easter Oratorio.” In the case of Parnasso, however, the crowd at the premiere loved the work so much that Handel saw the possibility of a commercial production arising from its royal wedding functionality. After the premiere at the King’s Theater, he presented it five more times during the remainder of the season and at least three revivals were produced in 1737, 1740, and 1741.

Parnasso in festa is set on the slopes of Mount Parnassus where Apollo and the nine muses oversee the marriage of the mortal Peleus and the divine Thetis, parents of the legendary hero Achilles. Each of the three acts centers around familiar mythological themes, beginning with Apollo’s pursuit of Daphne in Act I. Act II opens with the Muses recalling the story of Orpheus, now a god but who as a mortal endured the painful loss of his true love, Eurydice. In the festive Act III, all of the muses shower praises upon the happy couple. Filled with fanfares and extroverted music, this last scene is an excellent example of Handel’s ability to leave his audience with joyous music and great melodies ringing in their ears as they leave the opera house.

Mindy Ella Chu and Suzanne KarpovThe two principal roles in the work, Apollo and Clio, will be sung by 2016 Academy vocalists. ABS Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas is excited to work with all of this year’s Academy participants:

“They represent the best of the best young emerging artists who will be heard on stages across the country and around the globe in the coming years. They bring passion, determination, and of course their great talents to the ABS Festival each year, and the combination of their enthusiasm and eagerness with the sheer excitement of a very important American premiere of one of Handel’s most beautiful and stunning operatic works is a formula that results in truly inspired performances.”

Mezzo-soprano Mindy Ella Chu takes on the bravura role of Apollo. Now based in San Jose, she is a graduate of San Diego State University (B.Mus., 2012) and Yale University (M.Mus., 2015), where she worked under the direction of Masaaki Suzuki, director of Bach Collegium Japan. Passionately invested in the performance of Early Music, she states:

“I want to be in the new generation of early music performers who breathe life and truth into the art form and carry it into the future in creative ways.”

She is eager to participate in this year’s Festival & Academy:

“The ABS Academy has an environment that will enable me to learn, grow, and as a result contribute to the continuance of a beautiful and lively art form.”

Mindy is an energetic and dynamic performer whose palate of vocal colors serves a variety of musical styles. She made her international solo debut this past season with engagements in the UK, France, and Japan. She has also performed with the Yale Camerata, New Haven Symphony, San Diego Opera, San Diego Symphony, San Diego Lyric Opera, and The Pacific Bach Project in California. She is an advocate for musical projects that contribute to social change and aims to explore new ways of bringing classical music to contemporary audiences.

Soprano Suzanne Karpov sings the role of Clio. She is a graduate of Boston University (B.Mus. magna cum laude, 2014) and the University of Maryland (M.Mus in Opera Performance, 2015). This upcoming season, Suzanne will be make her debut with The Washington Bach Consort. She was an Apprentice Artist at the prestigious Bel Canto at Caramoor International Music Festival under the direction of Will Crutchfield, and she received the Donizetti Award at the Orpheus Vocal Competition in 2015.
 

Thursday-Friday, August 11-12 8:00 pm: Handel’s Parnasso in festa 
*North American Premiere performances
San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco
 
ABS Festival Orchestra & American Bach Choir with soloists from the ABS Academy
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

 
TICKET INFORMATION
 
Single tickets $30–$89
Purchasers of all 5 Festival productions receive a 15% subscribers discount.
 
For more information, visit sfbachfestival.org or americanbach.org call 415-621-7900.


 


 

CALENDAR EDITORS PLEASE NOTE - FULL FESTIVAL LISTING
 
AMERICAN BACH SOLOISTS FESTIVAL & ACADEMY, August 5–14, 2016
Concerts will be held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (1111 O’Farrell Street) and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (50 Oak Street) in San Francisco
 
All free events will be held at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (50 Oak Street)
 
Friday, August 5 8:00 pm: “Carmelite Vespers & Vivaldi’s Gloria”
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco
 
VIVALDI: Salve Regina
VIVALDI: Gloria
HANDEL: Saeviat Tellus Inter Rigores
HANDEL: Nisi Dominus
HANDEL: Dixit Dominus
 
Mary Wilson, soprano
Judith Malafronte, alto
Kyle Stegall, tenor
John Thiessen, trumpet
American Bach Choir
American Bach Soloists
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
 

Saturday, August 6 8:00 pm: “Postcards from The Grand Tour”
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco
 
Works by Albinoni, Caldara, Frescobaldi, Vivaldi, and others
 
Elizabeth Blumenstock & Robert Mealy, violins
William Skeen & Kenneth Slowik, violoncellos
Steven Lehning, contrabass
Corey Jamason, harpsichord
Sandra Miller, flute
Debra Nagy, oboe
Dominic Teresi, bassoon
Max van Egmond & William Sharp, baritones
 

Sunday, August 7 7:00 pm: Bach’s Mass in B Minor
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco
 
ABS Festival Orchestra with soloists from the ABS Academy
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
 

Monday-Tuesday, August 8-9: Academy-In-Action “Baroque Marathon”
San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco – FREE


Thursday-Friday, August 11-12 8:00 pm: Handel’s Parnasso in festa 
American Premiere performances
San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco
 
ABS Festival Orchestra & American Bach Choir with soloists from the ABS Academy
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

 

Saturday, August 13 8:00 pm: "Virtuosi of Venice & Rome"
San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco
 
VIVALDI: Concerto for Flute in D Major “Il Gardellino” (“The Goldfinch”)
VIVALDI: Concerto for Bassoon in B-flat Major
VIVALDI: Concerto for Trumpet & Oboe in D Major
VIVALDI: Sonata for 2 Violins in D Minor “La Folia”
VIVALDI: Concerto for 2 Violoncellos in G Minor
CORELLI: Concerto Grosso in D Major*
GEMINIANI: Concerto Grosso 12 in D Minor “La Folia”*
 
Elizabeth Blumenstock & Robert Mealy, violins
William Skeen & Kenneth Slowik, violoncellos
Steven Lehning, contrabass
Corey Jamason, harpsichord
Sandra Miller, flute
Debra Nagy, oboe
Dominic Teresi, bassoon
John Thiessen, trumpet
American Bach Soloists
The ABS Academy Orchestra
Jeffrey Thomas, Conductor

 
Sunday, August 14 2:00 pm: Bach’s Mass in B Minor
San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco
 
ABS Festival Orchestra with soloists from the ABS Academy
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

 


 
ABOUT AMERICAN BACH SOLOISTS
The American Bach Soloists engage and inspire audiences through historically informed performances, recordings, and educational programs that emphasize the music of the Baroque, Classical, and Early Romantic eras. Founded in 1989, the ensemble has achieved its vision of assembling the world’s finest vocalists and period-instrument performers to bring this brilliant music to life. For more than two decades, Jeffrey Thomas has brought thoughtful, meaningful, and informed perspectives to his performances as Artistic and Music Director of the American Bach Soloists. Fanfare Magazine proclaimed that “Thomas’s direction seems just right, capturing the humanity of the music…there is no higher praise for Bach performance.”

 [more...]
 


ABOUT JEFFREY THOMAS
Renowned for his experience, knowledge and sensitivity for the music of the Baroque, Jeffrey Thomas’s preparation of the major works of the repertory such as Bach’s Mass in B Minor, St. Matthew Passion, and Handel’s Messiah have led to inspired, definitive performances that have become synonymous with the ensemble he has led with such distinction, American Bach Soloists. San Francisco Classical Voice said, “Jeffrey Thomas is still pushing the musical Baroque envelope.” Before devoting all of his time to conducting, he was one of the first recipients of the San Francisco Opera Company's prestigious Adler Fellowships. Cited by The Wall Street Journal as “a superstar among oratorio tenors,” Mr. Thomas's extensive discography of vocal music includes dozens of recordings of major works for Decca, EMI, Erato, Koch International Classics, Denon, Harmonia Mundi, Smithsonian, Newport Classics, and Arabesque. He is a Professor of Music at the University of California, Davis, where he holds the Barbara K. Jackson Chair in Choral Conducting. Mr. Thomas currently hosts two shows on one of the nation's premiere classical music radio stations, KDFC, the most recent major commercial classical station in America to make the transition to public radio. Through worldwide streaming audio, he brings his experience and love for baroque and choral music to a global audience. [more...]
 
High resolution images and more information, including full artist biographies,
available at: americanbach.org/press

Press_vr_button

americanbach web address three colors




Click to view this email in a browser

If you no longer wish to receive these emails, please reply to this message with "Opt-Out" in the subject line or simply click on the following link: Opt-Out

Click here to forward this email to a friend

American Bach Soloists
44 Page Street, Suite 403
San Francisco, California 94102-5975
US

Read the VerticalResponse marketing policy.

Non-Profits Email Free with VerticalResponse!