#GivingTuesday and December News
Today is Giving Tuesday, "a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration." We invite you to begin this holiday season with a gift to support music in our community. For more information about Giving Tuesday, please visit www.givingtuesday.org. To make a donation to Pacific MusicWorks, please click here. We need the generous and faithful support of patrons like you to sustain the quality of the artists we bring to Seattle and those we cultivate in the area. Thank you so much for your interest and support!
Maxine and I have been in Cambridge and Boston for the last two weeks, creating a Boston Early Music Festival production of Francesca Caccini’s 1625 opera Alcina. As the first opera ever written by a woman, this piece has always been of historical interest, but Paul O’Dette, Gilbert Blin and I were determined to show that it was truly one of the great early operas, worthy to stand next to Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo as a creation. In fact, we had the same protagonist to play the male lead here (Ruggiero) that we recently had the pleasure to present in PMW’s concert performances of L’Orfeo last season, the magnificent tenor Colin Balzer. We had our premiere last night in Boston’s wonderful Jordan Hall where we will play again today and then on to two performances at the Morgan Library in New York before heading home on Wednesday. It remains to be seen what the critics will say, but judging by the public reaction, Francesca’s imaginative creation met with enthusiastic approval.
In short order we will be on to rehearsals for our holiday concert which we are calling Christmas in Rome. From the beginning, we knew that we wanted to include Stradella’s wonderful Christmas Cantata Ah! troppo e ver and Corelli’s beloved Christmas Concerto on the program, but in thinking about companion pieces for these we decided to look to the earlier 17th century for another vocal piece: Marazzolli’s Christmas motet for two sopranos and tenor called Con fausto augurio, and into the 18th century for Handel’s stunning emulation of Corelli in his own Concerto Grosso in D, Opus 6 #5. I’m very excited by this menu of delightful music, partly because I have made a transcription of the Marazzolli from the original manuscript and I believe this might well be the modern premiere of the work.
Marazzolli is probably the least well-known of the principle composers of early 17th century Rome under the Barbarini Popes, which include such luminaries as Giacomo Carissimi, Luigi Rossi, Stephano Landi and Dominico Mazzocchi. His surprising and piquant harmonies have made him a favorite of mine and also of Paul O’Dette and we have both transcribed a number of his pieces since so few exist in modern editions. The large Stradella cantata (which will be the entire second half of the program) deserves a more extensive description, because of its inherent interest and because it is little know so far in the US. It is well-known that Corelli developed the idea of the Concerto Grosso, especially through his publication of his Opus 6 in 1714. This publication set a pattern that would be emulated by many later composers, perhaps most consciously by Handel in publishing his own Opus 6 in 1739. Much less well known is that it was Stradella who established the principal of contrast between the small solistic Concertino group and the larger Concerto Grosso, in both instrumental and vocal works in the 1660s and 1670s. Ah! Che troppo e ver is a prime example of this usage and it brings with it an enormous range of orchestral colors with which to accompany the cast of six singers. The two sopranos, alto and tenor all embody roles that one would expect in the Christmas story: an Angel, several shepherds, Joseph and the Virgin Mary. But to increase the dramatic tension, Stradella introduces the bad guy: Lucifer himself is the role for the solo bass. Lucifer begins the whole story by ranting about his fears that his nemesis is about to be born. He calls out a chorus of Furies (the other five singers) to resist this ominous development. In our case, I’m particularly happy that we are bringing back my long-time colleague Douglas Williams to take on this virtuosic and imposing role. Douglas last appeared in Seattle several seasons ago opposite Amanda Forsythe in the Handel cantata Apollo and Dafne, but then he moved to Berlin, making it more difficult to get him out the West coast. This year, by good luck with the calendar, he will travel after a Mozart Requiem in Vienna to Seattle before going home for the holidays.
In addition to Christmas in Rome, we have festive offerings to share in both our Underground and Sanctuary in the City series. Henry Lebedinsky directs four wonderful local singers – soprano Natalie Ingrisano, mezzo-soprano Erin Calata, tenor Alan Wheaton, and baritone Martin Rothwell – in a program of carols and motets from Renaissance and Baroque Italy, France, and Latin America. Music includes Isabella Leonarda’s beautiful Gloria in Excelsis Deo and Black Brazilian composer José Mauricio Nuñes Garcia’s O Magnum Mysterium, as well as the infectious dance rhythms of the Xacara and Chacona… and even a sing-along! You can hear the show we call A Country (Baroque) Christmas at Naked City Brewery in Seattle, The Royal Room in Columbia City, and on Whidbey Island. Details and tickets can be found on our website, http://pacificmusicworks.org/underground. You can also hear a shorter version of the program for free at noon on Wednesday, December 5 at Christ Our Hope at the Josephinum downtown.