Saturday November 4, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Old First Presbyterian Church
LARRY MARIETTA, CONDUCTOR
JOHN R.S. WALKO, ORGANIST
MUSICIANS FROM THE SF ACADEMY ORCHESTRA
MARY ELLEN CALLAHAN, SOPRANO
TWILA EHMKE, MEZZO-SOPRANO
MICHAEL DESNOYERS, TENOR
PAUL THOMPSON, BASS
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Israel in egypt
Long considered to be one Handel's best oratorio operas, Israel in Egypt graphically depicts the harrowing experiences of Moses leading the Israelites to freedom and the Promised Land. Included is the famous parting of the Red Sea and the calamity of the destruction of the pursuing Egyptian Army. The 7 plagues, including the frogs, flies and locusts, show Handel's composition talents at their best. Israel in Egypt is initially challenging and ultimately immensely rewarding with its many double-choruses and bold duets and arias. The San Francisco City Chorus and SF Academy Orchestra is where the musical action is for this fall--Join us for a thrilling musical journey!
BACKGROUND: George Frideric Handel originally penned Israel in Egypt in 1738, as a work in three acts, the first of which was an adaptation of the Funeral Anthem, HWV 264, composed the previous year on the death of his former pupil Queen Caroline. (Such wholesale borrowing from his own works -- or even sometimes from other composers' works -- was one of Handel's favorite time-saving tactics.) The texts of both this original and the later versions of Israel in Egypt were taken almost entirely from the Book of Exodus (by Charles Jennens, who also provided the libretto for the oratorio Saul), and tell of the Israelites' suffering in and deliverance from Egypt. The only additions are a few psalms.
At its King's Theatre premiere on April 4, 1739, Israel in Egypt was an utter failure. Handel had long since recognized that his English audience had lost its taste for Italian opera and forms derived from it, and throughout the 1730s he had been exploring ways to make his natural flair for musical drama commercially viable. With the first version of Israel in Egypt, however, one might argue that he went too far in "de-operatizing" his style; his audience had no idea what to make of the use of biblical texts in a theater environment, and the absolute predominance of the chorus meant a shortage of the solo arias that were still the only reason they came to performances. The work was, in addition, rather lengthy. Handel tinkered with Israel in Egypt many times -- shortening it, adding arias -- in an attempt to make the work a more audience-friendly one. For a 1756 performance of the oratorio, however, he decided to start more or less from scratch; it is this 1756 verison of Israel in Egypt that today's audiences will recognize.