Theodora by G.F. Handel
Nathalie Paulin – soprano (Toronto), as Theodora, a Christian
Kristina Szabo – mezzo-soprano (Toronto), as Irene, Theodora’s friend
Lawrence Zazzo – countertenor (UK), as Didymus, a Roman officer
Zachary Wilder – tenor (France), as Septimus, a Roman soldier
Matthew Brook – bass-baritone (UK), as Valens, President of Antioch
Juno-nominated guest conductor Alexander Weimann leads an exquisite, large-scale oratorio in one of Early Music Society of the Island’s most ambitious projects to date.
In a joint production with Early Music Vancouver, EMSI welcomes acclaimed harpsichordist and conductor Alexander Weimann as guest music director for its presentation of George Frideric Handel’s dramatic oratorio Theodora, a touching tale of earthly and spiritual love, Sunday February 15, 2015 at Alix Goolden Hall. Weimann is an internationally sought-after ensemble director, soloist, and chamber music partner, as well as conductor of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in Vancouver, and music director of Les Voix Baroques, Le Nouvel Opéra, and Tempo Rubato.
Visiting soloists are Matthew Brook, one of Britain’s leading bass-baritones; American Zachary Wilder, a remarkably clear, flexible lyric tenor with a radiant tone; and American Lawrence Zazzo, one of the most outstanding countertenors of this generation.
Rounding out this all-star group are two local favourites: soprano Nathalie Paulin, who hails from New Brunswick and has graced stages around the world; and internationally acclaimed Hungarian-Canadian mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, who sang in EMSI’s December presentation of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.
One of Handel’s largest-scale oratorios, this production also combines the talents of the Vancouver Cantata Singers and twenty-eight members of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra.
Handel’s more than twenty-five oratorios are divided nearly evenly between the secular and the religious. Theodora is something of an oddity, combining both elements as it weaves a parable about the power of love and belief in the face of tyranny. Composed in 1749, Theodora’s context is the oppression of Christians in 4th century Antioch, one of the largest centres of the early Church. The libretto is in English and will be included with the afternoon’s concert programme. The music is as universal and timeless as the glory and misery of the self-sacrifice revealed in the unhappy couple at the centre of this tragedy.
Though most Handel aficionados would identify the Messiah as the composer’s most well-known work, the great master did not consider it his personal best. Biographia Dramatica, the centuries-old equivalent of Who’s Who, reports that, when asked if he considered the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Messiah to be his masterpiece, Handel replied, “No. I think the chorus, ‘He saw the lovely youth,’ at the end of the second part in Theodora far beyond it.” EMSI is confident that local audiences will find this tale of love and sacrifice as relevant today as it was for its prescient composer 266 years ago.
This production of Theodora, like EMSI’s December 2014 presentation of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, will also be performed in Seattle and Vancouver as part of the Northwest Baroque Masterworks Project, a new and exciting component of EMSI’s programming that involves regional artists and the cooperation of multiple presenters in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria.
Please note that EMSI’s performance of Theodora is on Sunday afternoon at 3 PM (NOT at the usual 8 PM on Saturday).
The music of Handel continues with the Pacific Baroque Festival presentation of five concerts from the 19th to the 22nd of February. EMSI members receive festival passes at a special rate. Be sure to check out the Pacific Baroque Festival’s website.
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