Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pocket Opera to Offer a Handel Oratorio

Only a week after this Sunday’s full-length staged production of The Bartered Bride, Bedřich Smetana’s comic opera in three acts, Pocket Opera will shift over to an oratorio. The work to be performed will be George Frideric Handel’s HWV 58, Semele, which was described as a “musical drama,” originally presented “after the manner of an oratorio” (as described on the 1744 Web page of the Handel Reference Database). This three-act work was given its first performance on February 10, 1744 at the Covent Garden Theatre in London, as part of an annual concert series held during Lent.

Given the setting, it is likely that the audience expected a Biblically-themed oratorio. Instead, they got a musical account of Jupiter’s dalliances with the title character, the daughter of Cadmus, King of Thebes. Those familiar with mythology probably know that, every time Jupiter had one of these “adventures,” his wife Juno always came up with a suitable revenge; and the tale of Semele is no exception. One would think that Juno’s actions would be sufficient for Lenten meditation. However, Semele gives birth to Bacchus; so the oratorio does not end on a note of sobriety, let alone solemnity!

Maya Kherani as Semele (photograph by Nicolas Aliaga Garcia)

The title role will be sung by soprano Maya Kherani. The role of Jupiter will be taken by tenor David Gustafson, and mezzo Sonia Gariaeff will take the part of Juno. Because Semele is an oratorio, it will be presented in concert form without staging or costumes. Musical direction will be by Frank Johnson.

Like this Sunday’s offering, the performance will take place at the Legion of Honor, beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 29. The Legion of Honor is located in Lincoln Park. It is approached by following 34th Street north of Clement Street (which is the southern boundary of the park). General admission is $50 with a discounted rate of $45 for seniors. Tickets will be sold at the door beginning at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are also available at the presale rate of $47 for general admission and $44 for seniors. Presale is being processed online through a Vendini event page, which allows for individual seat selection.

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