Sunday, February 23, 2020

‘Handel’s temple of sound on Mott Street’

Almighty pow’r, who rul’st the earth and skies,
And bade gay order from confusion rise;
Whose gracious hand reliev’d Thy slave distress’d,
With splendour cloath’d me, and with knowledge bless’d;
Thy finish’d temple with Thy presence grace,
And shed Thy heav’nly glories o’er the place.

Solomon, from the libretto

What are you doing in two weeks? Get the boys from lodge and your ladies together for a class trip and go get some culture! Handel’s oratorio Solomon will be performed by Amor Artis Chorus at Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. From the publicity:

G.F. Handel’s Solomon
Sunday, March 8
3:30 p.m.
Amor Artis Chorus
Basilica of St. Patrick’s
Old Cathedral
261 Mott Street, Manhattan
Tickets here

Seize a rare opportunity to hear Handel’s majestic oratorio Solomon. Alex Ross of The New Yorker deemed Act III “Handel’s genius at its vertiginous height . . . [a] temple of sound, which has withstood the centuries and shines brighter than ever.” Led by the “exquisite” singing of Sarah Nelson Craft in the title role (Opera News), Amor Artis, in collaboration with our friends, the “truly excellent” dynamos of New York Baroque, Inc. (The New York Times), will present this famous story of wisdom and judgment, which features some of Handel’s grandest choruses. Join us at the beautiful space at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.

Amor Artis Chorus
Madeline Healey, soprano
Katie Lipow, soprano
Sarah Nelson Craft, mezzo-soprano
Alex Guerrero, tenor
Michael Steinberger, tenor
Richard Holmes, baritone

New York Baroque, Incorporated

British Choirs on the Net explains:

The popularity of oratorio in England owes much to the nation’s choral singing tradition and the patronage by the Elector of Hanover, later George I, of George Frederick Handel. In his oratories, Handel sought both to educate and entertain, and provided a foil to the more restrained and devotional religious music of Byrd and J.S. Bach.

Handel composed Solomon between May 5 and June 13, 1748. The librettist, as with his next work Susanna, is unknown. The plot is simple with Act I dealing with the inauguration of the newly completed temple, and ends with Solomon beckoning his queen toward the cedar grove, where one suspects it is not just the “amorous turtles” that “love beneath the pleasing gloom.” Act II is based around the well known story of two women arguing over who is the mother of the newborn baby, and Solomon’s sharp thinking to find a solution. Act III portrays the visit of the Queen of Sheba (also known as the Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia), and her amazement at the glory and splendor of Solomon’s court.

With a relatively small and diverse cast of characters (Solomon, Queen of Sheba, two Harlots, Zadok the Priest, and a Levite), it falls to the chorus, as builders and inhabitants of this “golden city,” to emphasize the grandeur and splendor of Solomon’s kingdom, and to literarily provide the pillars of the whole piece. These grand choruses, seven of which are in eight voice-parts, add to the texture and opulence of the oratorio mirroring the glory of the court and religious intensity.

Always an astute businessman, Handel praised and paid homage to his patron by highlighting the perceived parallels, for the eighteenth century audience, between Solomon and George II. The qualities of Solomon, as portrayed by Handel, his piety (Act I), wisdom (Act II), and splendor (Act III), were also attributable to the reigning English king, and Handel duly praised the establishment virtues of happy marriage, rural contentment, and a national religion.

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