United States Handel, Theodora: Soloists, The Choir of Trinity Wall Road, Trinity Baroque Orchestra / Avi Stein (conductor). Venetian Theater, Caramoor Heart for Music and the Arts, Katonah, NY, 31.7.2022. (RP)
Theodora – Marie-Eve Munger
Didymus – Anthony Roth Costanzo
Irene – Daniela Mack
Septimius – Alek Shrader
Valens – Tyler Duncan
It was a high quality afternoon to take pleasure in Handel’s Theodora on the Caramoor Heart for Music and the Arts’ open-air Venetian Theater. Though heat, it was nowhere close to as sizzling and steamy because it had been just some days earlier. Even with the high quality forces that Caramoor had gathered for this efficiency plus an limitless stream of gorgeous Handel melodies, three hours would have been an endurance check if it had been any hotter.
Caramoor was the house of Walter Tower and Lucie Bigelow Rosen, which they crammed with treasures from their European travels. Born in Berlin, Walter Tower immigrated together with his household to New York as a toddler and later turned a profitable banker. Lucie Rosen was from a socially distinguished New York household with pursuits in vogue, dance, visible arts and music. She was an early devotee of digital music, lengthy earlier than it turned standard.
The Rosen’s residence opened to the general public in 1971, three years after Lucie Rosen’s dying. The Venetian Theater, the place this efficiency of Theodora occurred, opened in 1958. It was one in all her early efforts to make Caramoor extra accessible to the general public after the dying of her husband.
Handel composed Theodora in a single month throughout the summer season of 1749, and it premiered at Covent Backyard throughout Lent of the next yr. The oratorio relies on the story of Theodora, an early Christian martyr who lived within the metropolis of Antioch, and her Roman lover, Didymus, who had secretly transformed to Christianity and shared her destiny.
The virtuous younger girl refused to pay homage to the Roman gods in honor of the Emperor Diocletian’s birthday, which amounted to treason. One thing worse than dying, nevertheless, awaited Theodora: she was sentenced to work as a prostitute within the Temple of Venus. Didymus helped her to flee, however they had been captured and each sentenced to dying.
Neither the storyline nor the music of Theodora discovered favor with the London public in Handel’s time. The story of a virgin martyr and saint didn’t sit properly with Protestant sensibilities, and the rating has little of the grandeur and triumph that they’d come to anticipate from Handel. He, nevertheless, maintained that Theodora was his favourite oratorio and thought of the refrain ‘He noticed the beautiful youth’ to be far superior to the Hallelujah Refrain from Messiah. For over 250 years, audiences have differed with him on that.
The glamorous, imperious soprano Marie-Eve Munger maybe didn’t fairly look the a part of a pious martyr, however her beautiful singing all however transported one to heaven. Munger’s sound shimmered as she sang the beautiful, usually poignant, arias that Handel composed for Theodora. The expressiveness of her singing was enhanced by the swish ornamentation with which she adorned the reprises of the melodies within the da capo arias.
Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo dropped at Didymus the qualities – dramatic urgency, a singular sound and seamless lyricism – which have made him one in all at the moment’s most compelling singers. The shock was that Munger and Costanzo, so dissimilar in temperament and voice, had been as one of their duets collectively.
As Irene, Theodora’s confidant and non secular information, mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack evoked the vocal grandeur of the golden age of oratorio singer together with her wealthy voice. There was nothing fusty or mannered about Mack in anyway – she simply sang fantastically. Her ‘Lord, to Thee every night time and day’ was excellent.
Tenor Alek Shrader introduced related stylistic and vocal authenticity to Septimius, who assists Theodora and Didymus of their futile escape. Baritone Tyler Duncan as Valens, the Roman governor of Antioch, relished taking part in the villain who insists that Theodora be punished for refusing to obey his orders. Duncan’s enunciation was exemplary: each rolled ‘r’ dripped with evil.
Avi Stein led Trinity’s Baroque Orchestra and Choir and the distinctive quintet of singers in a stylistically positive and sensitively carried out efficiency. Stein is the affiliate organist and refrain grasp at Trinity Wall Road and likewise on the school of Juilliard. Trinity’s orchestra is among the many best of New York’s interval instrument ensembles, whereas its refrain excels in your entire canon of Western choral music.
Increasingly more usually, Theodora is being staged as an opera. This efficiency, so musically rewarding and dramatically compelling, did make one marvel why.