MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Mozart’s Messiah

Lee Mills with Seattle Symphony

I’m looking forward to this program with Seattle Symphony — and to the next chance to hear associate conductor Lee Mills in action, having been deeply impressed by his last-minute stand-in performance for an incredibly challenging program in November, which featured a world premiere by Hannah Lash and a rarity from Amy Beach.

Regarding Mozart’s take on Handel, Lindsay Kemp offers a helpful summary here of the profound effect that Baron van Swieten’s collection of Baroque music had on the composer. Van Swieten held private concerts in Vienna to explore choral music from the past and “invited Mozart to prepare new performing editions of a group of Handel oratorios…Doubtless Mozart was glad of the money, but, far from being workaday, the job he carried out on the scores is careful and considered, clearly born out of respect for Handel’s skill and creative personality.”

Kemp writes: “His main objective was to recast Handel’s music — whose original Baroque orchestral line-up of strings, oboes and bassoon and occasional brass and timpani would have seemed a little thin to Classical ears — for an up-to-date ensemble which added flutes, clarinets and horns. He thus brings a warm Viennese glow to the music, but in places Mozart also added his own gloss to events, as for instance in Messiah when he adds a contrapuntal shadow to the stark unison accompaniment of ‘The people that walked in darkness’…..”

A performance of Mozart’s complete version:

Filed under: Handel, Mozart, Seattle Symphony

A Chat with Nicholas McGegan


Nicholas McGegan conducting Juilliard415 in 2019

Ahead of his upcoming Juilliard projects, I spoke with the always delightful Nicholas McGegan.

A new year and decade: 2020 brings some major milestones for eminent conductor, harpsichordist, and flutist Nicholas McGegan…


Filed under: conductors, early music, Handel, Juilliard

Protected: Review of San Francisco Opera Season Closers

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Filed under: directors, Georges Bizet, Handel, Musical America, review, San Francisco Opera

Byron Schenkman & Friends Explore Handel’s Italian Cantatas

Sunday evening’s Byron Schenkman & Friends program looks delicious: focusing on two early cantatas by Handel (including Vedendo Amor from his sojourn in Rome), it also includes some of his instrumental music plus pieces by Domenico Scarlatti, Antonio Caldara, and Anna Bon.
For some background, here’s my piece in this month’s Juilliard Journal on Handel in Rome (on p. 16).

Complete program:

George Frideric Handel:
Sonata in G Major, op. 1, no. 5, for flute and continuo

Domenico Scarlatti:
Four keyboard sonatas, K. 238, K. 239, K. 99, K. 100

George Frideric Handel:
Cantata “Vedendo Amor” for voice and continuo

Antonio Caldara:
Cantata “Soffri, mio caro Alcino” for voice and continuo

Anna Bon:
Sonata in F Major, op. 1, no. 2, for flute and continuo

George Frideric Handel:
Cantata “Mi palpita il cor” for voice, flute, and continuo

Reginald Mobley

Joshua Romatowski

Nathan Whittaker

Byron Schenkman


Concert starts 7pm on Sunday 18 November at Benaroya’s Nordstrom Recital Hall.
Tickets here.

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, Handel, Juilliard

Vivo in Te

What a pleasure to get to hear Julia Lezhneva and partner in crime Dmitry Sinkovsky again, just a couple months after the Easter Festival in Lucerne. This time was the soprano’s Seattle debut. A heavenly evening of Vivaldi and Handel, with “Vivo in Te” as their encore.

Filed under: Baroque opera, Dmitry Sinkovsky, Handel, Julia Lezhneva, Vivaldi

Handel in Omaha

One of the many remarkable moments from this past weekend at Opera Omaha’s ONE Festival.

Filed under: Handel, Opea Omaha


In the mood to ignore this brutal Siberian cold spell and enjoy tonight’s Serse from 1738 (the Stefan Herheim production, conducted by Konrad Junghänel) at the Komische Oper.

Writes Richard Wigmore:

‘One of the worst that Handel ever set to music’, ran a contemporary verdict on the libretto of Serse, whose ‘mixture of tragic-comedy and buffoonery’ fazed London audiences in 1738. History, of course, has had its revenge. Today the very qualities that puzzled its original hearers – the lightly ironic, occasionally farcical tone, the fluid structure (many short ariosos, relatively few full-dress da capo arias) – have made Serse one of Handel’s most attractive operas for stage directors and audiences alike. There are episodes of high seriousness, above all in the magnificent sequence of Act 2 arias beginning with Serse’s aria di bravura ‘Se bramate’. But much of the invention has an airy melodiousness, whether in the dulcet minuet songs for the coquettish Atalanta, or Serse’s invocation to a plane tree, ‘Ombra mai fu’, immortalised and sentimentalised as ‘Handel’s Largo’.

 More background info here.

Complete Italian libretto here.


Filed under: Handel, Stefan Herheim

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered: Alcina Casts Surprising Spells in Santa Fe


Elsa van den Heever (Alcina) © Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2017

My review of Santa Fe Opera’s Alcina for Bachtrack:

George Bernard Shaw crystallised longstanding biases when he declared that Handel’s operas were “only stage concerts for shewing off the technical skill of the singers”. David Alden, a longstanding maverick director and hero of Regie-philes, made his reputation in part through his striking interpretations of Handel. If anything, his production of Alcina, which he first staged at the Opéra National de Bordeaux in 2012 (with many of the same singers), pushes too far in the opposite direction to the theatrically static fossil of Shaw’s stereotype.


Filed under: directors, Handel, review, Santa Fe Opera

The Devil Gets the Best Tunes


Laurence Cummings (Photo by Robert Workman)

Here’s a piece I wrote for this month’s Juilliard Journal about Agrippina:

In one of Agrippina‘s pivotal scenes, the Emperor Claudius—at first presumed dead at sea by the scheming title character, only to be inconveniently rescued—crows in triumph over “conquered Britain” as a “new subject” for the Roman throne. That wouldn’t exactly be music to Brexit supporters—but, then, international migrants like George Frideric Handel (né Georg Friedrich Händel) would have had a harder time in a Europe of zealously policed borders.

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Filed under: Handel, Juilliard

Mr Handel

gfhandelKeeping watch in his Brook St bedroom.

Filed under: Handel, photography

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