Handel’s comic piece Xerxes of 1738 was one of his last operas; it was also one of his
least successful. The audience didn’t understand his operatic jokes and didn’t
see the funny side of it; even though four of the characters start with
‘A’. Charles Burney later commented: ‘I
have not been able to discover the author of the words of this drama: but it is
one of the worst Handel ever set to Music: for besides feeble writing, there is
a mixture of tragic-comedy and buffoonery in it.’ The buffoonery includes a
collapsing bridge, a warring (potential) couple, a foolish general, a servant
disguised as a flower seller, and a monarch in love with a plane tree. We can
promise you all this, and much more!
Masterclass participants: Alexander Gebhard, Emily Gibson, Patrick Keefe, and Indyana Schneider
Conductor and pianist Jonathon Swinard is the Head of Music at Garsington Opera and the Artistic Director of the Scottish Opera Young Company. He studied at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, where he held the NCO Répétiteur Scholarship, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He began his career at Scottish Opera as the company’s first Emerging Artist Répétiteur and also held the Alexander Gibson Choral Conducting Fellowship with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus. From 2014 to 2016 he was Solorepetitor and Kapellmeister at the Staatstheater in Nuremberg where he conducted opera, ballet, and musical theatre. In 2016 he returned to Scottish Opera as Chorus Master and Répétiteur. He studied conducting with Sian Edwards at Dartington and is the Musical Director of the Helensburgh Oratorio Choir.
Jonathon is a long-standing member of Faculty for both the Georg Solti Accademia di Bel Canto and Lyric Opera Studio Weimar and is a visiting vocal coach at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Royal Academy of Music, and Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He is passionate about the training of young voices and is the Artistic Director of the Alvarez Young Artists’ Programme at Garsington Opera.
Musical Director – Anhad Arora
Répétiteur – Joseph Beesley
Director – Michael Burden
Sempronio, an old apothecary – Maximilian Lawrie
Grilletta, Sempronio’s ward – Emily Gibson
Mengone, Sempronio’s apprentice – Jacob Clark
Volpino, a young rich dandy – Indyana Schneider
Haydn’s short comic opera The Apothecary – described as ‘a comedy of great warmth and ebullience’ – was written for performance at Estahazy in 1768. The libretto is by the creator and master of the comic opera libretto, Carlo Goldoni. The story is a love tangle, in which the old Apothecary is in love with his ward Grilletta – but as also is the poor apprentice Mengone, and the rich and assured dandy Volpino. The action twists and turns encompassing a marriage contract, a map of Turkey, and the appearance of Volpino disguised as a Pasha.
The Coffee and Peasant cantatas by J.S. Bach reveal a wordly – even parodic — side to a composer often associated with cerebral themes. The Coffee Cantata, written for a performance in Zimmerman’s newly founded Kaffeehaus, is a satirical exploration of a pernicious addiction to coffee. The black concoction, after its introduction into the Western world at the end of the 17th century, was worshipped by some – perhaps because of the drink’s putative status as an aphrodisiac – and reviled by others. Bach’s cantata on the subject is ferociously witty; it includes, amongst other numbers, a veritable love song to the delectable liquid: ‘Ei! Wie schmeckt der Kaffee süsse’ . The Peasant Cantata, no less profane in theme, can be described as a comic dialogue in music. The text, written in a dialect peculiar to Upper Saxony, describes, with close attention to all matters financial, the banal existence of two peasants, an unnamed farmer and his wife, Mieke. With 24 movements, it is one of Bach’s most elaborately structured cantatas; with only 2 singers and 3 permanent instrumentalists, it is also one of his most economically scored.
21 June 2018
Edward Boyle Auditorium, St Hilda’s College
William Christie, Rameau and
Staging Baroque Opera
2.30pm Lecture- James Halliday
4.00pm Round Table discussion
James Halliday, with William Christie, Claire Holden, Jonathan Williams, Jonathan Patterson
5.30pm Drinks Reception
22 June 2018
Mary Ogilvie Lecture Theatre, St Anne’s College
William Christie in Conversation with
This event will take place in the programme of the Oxford Conducting Institute’s International Conducting Studies Conference 2018.
William Christie, harpsichordist, conductor, musicologist, and teacher, is the inspiration behind one of the most exciting musical adventures of the last 30 years. A pioneer in the rediscovery of Baroque music, he has introduced the repertoire of 17th- and 18th-century France to a very wide audience across the globe. Born in Buffalo, and educated at Harvard and Yale, William Christie has lived in France since 1971. The turning point in his career came in 1979, when he founded Les Arts Florissants. Major public recognition came in 1987 with the production of Lully’s Atys at the Opéra Comique in Paris. From Charpentier to Rameau, through Couperin, Mondonville, William Christie is the uncontested master of tragédie-lyrique as well as opéra-ballet. But his affection for French music does not preclude him from exploring other European repertoires as Monteverdi, Rossi, Scarlatti, Landi, Purcell, Handel, Mozart, Haydn ou Bach.
Notable among his most recent operatic work are Campra’s Les Fêtes vénitiennes in 2015 at Paris’s Opéra Comique and then at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Rameau, Maître à Danser created at Caen Theater in 2014; Theodora in 2016 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and, in 2018, Handel’s Jephtha at the Opéra de Paris and Ariodante at the Wiener Staatsoper. As a guest conductor, William Christie often appears at opera festivals such as Glyndebourne (Giulio Cesare in 2018) or at opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera of New York, the Zurich Opernhaus, or the Opéra National de Lyon. His extensive discography includes more than 100 recordings. His most recent recordings in “Les Arts Florissants” collection at Harmonia mundi: La Harpe Reine, Un jardin à l’italienne, Bien que l’amour and B Minor Mass (release in Spring 2018). Wishing to develop further his work as a teacher, in 2002 William Christie created, with Les Arts Florissants, a biennial Academy for young singers, Le Jardin des Voix, Now established at Thiré in Vendée, where he lives. Since 2007 he has been artist in residence at the Juilliard School in New York, where he gives master classes twice a year accompanied by the musicians of Les Arts Florissants. In 2012, he launched the festival Dans les Jardins de William Christie in his own gardens, where he welcomes every summer young musicians from the Juilliard School along with the musicians of Les Arts Florissants.
In November 2008, William Christie was elected to France’s Académie des Beaux-Arts, and gave his official inaugural speech under the dome of the Institut de France in January 2010. In 2018 he was named world ambassador for French culture by Le Bureau Export, in the presence of French culture minister Françoise Nyssen.
The Evening’s Events
6.00pm: Drink in the Cloisters
6.30pm: Opera Part I, The Warden’s Garden
Picnic Interval in the Cloisters (approximately 90 minutes)
9.00pm: Opera Part II, The Warden’s Garden
Wednesday 4 (Preview) & Tuesday 10
New Chamber Opera
Saturday 7 & Friday 13
Tickets: New College Development Office (01865) 279 337
Tickets: OXPIP (01865) 778 034
Tickets: Friends of the Oxford Botanic Garden (07722) 605 787
Tickets: Friends of WNO (01865) 408 045
Il mondo della luna
Ecclitico, a would-be astronomer: Daniel Shelvey
Ernesto, a cavalier: Daniel Keating-Roberts
Buonafede, a naive old man: Thomas Kennedy
Clarice, daughter of Buonafede: Kate Semmens
Flaminia, another daughter of Buonafede: Rachel Shannon
Lisetta, maid of Buonafede: Indyana Schneider
Cecco, servant of Ernesto: Alexander Gebhard
The central character of Haydn’s opera Il Mondo della Luna is a rather dotty and egotistical but naive old man, Bonafede. He is entranced by the lunar lifestyle invented by Ecclitico, the false astronomer. The aim of the opera is to befuddle Bonafede into allowing his two daughters to marry: Flaminia to Ernesto, and Clarice to Ecclitico. The opera was performed in celebration of the wedding of Count Nikolaus Eszterházy (son of Haydn’s employer, Prince Eszterházy) and the Countess Maria Anna Weissenwolf on August 3, 1777, but very rarely (if at all) thereafter. It underwent a number of changes, and it is clear that there is not one but many versions of the piece.
The opera was a pathbreaker in a number of ways. Up until 1776 there was no regular operatic tradition at the Eszterházy court, where Haydn was composer and Kapellmeister. He had composed several well-received operas, including L’infedeltà delusa (performed by New Chamber Opera in 2014) but it was not until the completion of the new Eszterházy theatre that he began to compose operas on a regular basis. Haydn not only wrote new operas but promoted works by other composers’ new repertoire. It has undergone some revival in the last few years, in particular, in two different productions by English Touring Opera.
Born into a family of singers, Andreas Scholl, aged 13, was chosen from 20,000 choristers gathered in Rome from around the world to sing solo at Mass on 4 January 1981. Just four years later, Scholl was offered a place at the Schola Cantorum, an institution that normally accepts only post-graduate students, and now succeeded his own teacher there, Richard Levitt. His operatic roles include Bertarido in Handel’s Rodelinda at Glyndebourne in 1998 and at the Met in 2006, and the title role in Giulio Cesare at Oper Frankfurt. He has worked with many of the contemporary Baroque specialists including William Christie and Philippe Herreweghe.
Scholl has released a series of extraordinary solo recordings including: Wanderer – a disc of German Lied in partnership with pianist Tamar Halperin; O Solitude – an all-Purcell album with Accademia Bizantina which won the 2012 BBC Music Magazine award, Arias for Senesino, Heroes – a disc of arias by Handel, Mozart, Hasse and Gluck, Robert Dowland’s A Musicall Banquet, Arcadia – a collection of rare and unpublished cantatas by composers from Rome’s Arcadian Circle, Wayfaring Stranger – a selection of specially arranged English and American folksongs with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Bach cantatas with Kammerorchester Basel and Vivaldi Motets with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, all of which are released on Decca. His most recent recording, Small Gifts of Heaven, is a collaboration with Dorothee Oberlinger and released on the Sony label this season.
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