* Notes *
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's 2013-2014 season opened with a set of performances entitled "Pergolesi in Naples." The San Francisco performance was held at the SFJAZZ Center, which has an intimate feel and a dry, crackly acoustic. Maestro Nicholas McGegan described Pergolesi's Sinfonia from L'Olimpiade as having "vim and spritz," the Händel duets and arias as being "jolly and miserable" in turn, Durante's Concerto for Strings No. 2 in G minor as "chromatic and slithery," and explained that Pergolesi wrote his Stabat Mater just before he died at the age of 26. The playing sounded a bit harsher and less resonant in this venue compared to the Herbst Theatre or First Congregational, but is a far more comfortable than the former as far as seating and air flow. McGegan has his own very distinctive cheerful style and the orchestra still sounded jaunty and lilting.
I enjoyed hearing the Händel played by this orchestra, as there was never a dull moment. Though I know the pieces quite well, having heard Rodelinda and Giulio Cesare live on multiple occasions, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra brought a certain freshness to them. Soprano Carolyn Sampson (pictured above, photograph by Marco Borggreve) and countertenor David Daniels blended nicely in "Io t'abbraccio." They clearly listened to each other. Daniels sounded fairly hearty in this space, and did not have to employ much vibrato. Sampson was delightful in "Da tempeste," and it would be great to hear her sing the entire role of Cleopatra. Her voice has a sultry warmth but sparkling high notes.
The Stabat Mater was exuberant, the light music is mostly happy with a few moments of seriousness, and then rather triumphant. The orchestra never overwhelmed the singers. The singing went smoothly.
* Tattling *
One of the ushers behind us in Row M seemed to speak at full-volume even when musicians were playing quietly. There was also some sort of incident with a microphone during the Presto of Durante's Concerto.