Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Händel's Teseo at PBO

Amanda-forsythe* Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra is currently performing Händel's Teseo in the Bay Area. The opera certainly has some very silly moments, and this semi-staged version simply embraced the absurdity. The orchestra is set up around the two harpsichords, with Maestro Nicholas McGegan at one and Hanneke van Proosdij at the other. As a result, a number of the musicians are facing the stage, making it easier for them to engage with the singers. This keeps the orchestra and singers together, and the vocalists have a clear rapport with the instrumental soloists. Because the pit in Herbst Theater for Thursday's performance is so small, theorbo player David Taylor played from the stage. For Clizia's aria "Risplendete, amiche stelle," both Clizia and Arcane interact with Taylor, to amusing effect.

The cast featured many high voices. The two countertenors had opposing problems, Robin Blaze (Arcane) with his upper range, and Drew Minter (Egeo) with his lower notes. They did both act well. Blaze has some sweetness to his voice, but the quality of his high notes has a strained, whooping quality. Minter has a pleasant resonance in the middle of his voice, but the transitions between his head and chest sounds were jarring.

The four sopranos also have sounds distinct from one another, but fared better. Céline Ricci (Clizia) was committed to her acting. As Agilea, Valerie Vinzant started off a bit squeaky, but smoothed out over the course of the performance. Her "M'adora l'idol mio" with the oboe soloist conveyed the conviviality of the evening's proceedings. In the title role, Amanda Forsythe (pictured above) sounded secure and well-supported. Dominique Labelle relished playing the villainess Medea. Labelle's voice is sturdy and rich. She was able to explore an array of emotions, and express these through her sound.

* Tattling * 
There were many loud whispers and outright talking in the first half. Quite a few people left at the interval, so the second half was much quieter.

PBO's 2013-2014 Season

PBO_byRandiBeachOctober 2-6 2013: Pergolesi's Stabat Mater
November 15-19 2013: Berezovsky, Facius, Fomin, Glinka
December 6-10 2013: Stanley, Croft, Boyce
December 14-15 2013: Händel's Messiah
February 5-9 2014: C.P.E. Bach, Haydn
March 5-9 2013: Muffat, Schmelzer, Schein, Biber, Benda, Bach, Telemann
April 10-14 2013: Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's 2013-2014 season was announced on today. Carolyn Sampson and David Daniels are the soloists in Stabat Mater. Cécile van de Sant, Vivica Genaux, Diana Moore, Dominique Labelle, and Virginia Warnken are featured in Juditha Triumphans.

Official Site

Dominique Labelle Interview

Dominique-labelle-lino-alvarezSoprano Dominique Labelle (pictured left, photograph by Lino Alvarez) is currently singing with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. She spoke with The Opera Tattler on April 17, 2012 after rehearsal in Berkeley.

How did you start singing?
I started singing when I was very young. When I was about 13 I played flute, piano, and guitar. At the time I was writing poems and set them to music, and just started singing that way. I didn't even know I had a voice, it just turned out that way. I always loved music, and wanted to be inside of it. Singing happens to be how I am able to do that.

Was your family musical?
My mother always sang in choruses, as did her mother. My father played accordion. I do have a singer in my genealogy, Emma Albani. Her grandmother was a Labelle. Albani was born in the 1840s. She studied in Italy and even sang at Covent Garden. It took a long time for her to get married, because in those days a woman had to be a mother and stay at home. She would not have been able to continue her career if she had married. She was very brave. She sang all over, in Australia and Russia. I have heard recordings of her, but of course, it was very late in her career so it is hard to tell what her voice was really like. It is remarkable, because where she was from, people were mostly farmers.

You are from Laval, Quebec. Why is it that Canada produces so many great singers?
I think it might be a mixture of discipline and freedom. We don't have the constraints of tradition that perhaps effects the Europeans. We might not have the same pressures of making money as Americans do. But there are many great singers from different places.

How did you find yourself living in Central Massachusetts?
I went to Tanglewood Music Center in 1986 and met Phyllis Curtin. I wanted to really study with her, and was able to get a scholarship to attend Boston University. I moved to Massachusetts in 1988. I met my husband at school, he is a tenor. We did those love scenes over and over and it got us in trouble!

You sing a lot of Baroque music. What do you think of contemporary works?
I love all music, but new music can sometimes be hard on the voice. Especially with young composers, you really have to look at the score. There might be five pages of B flats, who knows! In any case, I love to be part of the music.

The ABA form that characterizes many Baroque arias can seem static. How do you avoid being dull?
Remember that this music was written before radio or recordings. The ABA form is quite nice if it is the first time you are hearing a piece. It helps familiarize the listener, and when the A part comes back, it is always a little bit transformed. You have to find that difference within yourself as an artist, and it is one of the challenges of singing Baroque music.

How is working with Philharmonia Baroque?
Everyone is involved in putting the music together. It is a collaborative environment, like a family.

Tell me about the piece you are singing with PBO, Alexander's Feast.
The text adapted from a Dryden poem written for Saint Cecilia. It is beautiful music. It is not dramatic, and there is no real narrative. We are at party, and there is lots of energy, ideas, and creativity.

You must love Handel, you sing a lot of his work.
Handel demands your whole life! I've thought a lot about the fascinating characters in his pieces. I am always trying to figure out what shaped the story at hand, because can be so much range of emotion in the arias of a given character.

What is next for you?
I am off to a concert in Monterrey, Mexico. I have been traveling since the middle of December!

What was the last movie you saw?
I saw Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about Jiro Ono, the famous sushi chef who is 85 years old. It really stuck with me, how obsessed with he is with getting everything exactly right.

PBO's 2012-2013 Season

October 5-7 2012: Purcell's Come Ye Sons of Art & Dioclesian
November 7-11 2012: Emanuel Ax plays Beethoven
December 8-9 2012: Masaaki Suzuki conducts Händel's Messiah
December 13-16 2012: Masaaki Suzuki conducts Bach
January 12-16 2013: Four Seasons Tour
February 13-17 2013: Haydn, J.C. Bach, Mozart
March 15-20 2013: Rachel Podger, violin and leader
April 10-14 2013: Händel's Teseo

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's 2012-2013 season was announced on 13 March 2012. PBO will tour Carmel, La Jolla, and Palo Alto with a program that includes Vivaldi's Le quattro stagioni.

Official Site

Richard Egarr conducts PBO


* Notes *
Harpsichordist Richard Egarr (pictured left, photograph by Marco Borggreve) is currently conducting Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in a program entitled "Masters of the English Baroque." The performance last night in San Francisco started with Händel's Symphony from Saul. The concertmaster and the first oboe played well together in the Larghetto. The oboe solo in the Allegro seemed quite difficult. Egarr addressed the audience a good deal after the opening work, happily claiming Händel as English and introducing the second piece, Locke's Music from The Tempest. We were told the music had a "touch of the Monty Pythons" and was like "Stravinsky gone wrong." The music was rather descriptive, being rather stormy at beginning and end, more lilting in the middle. The dynamics employed were dramatic. Before intermission came Purcell's Suite from The Fairy Queen, which Egarr described as his "favorite bits from the show." The playing was utterly delightful, the dances especially vivid without being overly springy. The oboe duet was charming and remincent of birdsong.

The second half of the program started with Arne's Concerto for Harpsichord No. 5 in G minor. Egarr's playing was deft and it is always interesting to watch a soloist both play and conduct. As the harpsichord was placed perpendicular to the stage for Lawes' Consort Sett in Six Parts No. VII in C major, Egarr admitted the piece was for 6 gambas rather than violins, violas, and celli. The playing was together and clear. We ended with Händel's Concerto Grosso Op. 3, No. 5 in D minor, HWV 316 followed by "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" from Solomon.

* Tattling *
PBO's new executive director, Michael Costa, appeared on stage before the performance to inform us someone's wallet had been found and requested that all electronic devices be silenced. The audience was more or less quiet, only a few murmurs were heard.

Vivica Genaux at PBO

Genaux_Vivica_credit-Christian-Steiner_640* Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra just completed a run of performances with mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux (pictured left, photograph by Christian Steiner) last weekend in Berkeley. The ensemble, conducted by Nicholas McGegan, started Sunday evening's performance with Johann Friedrich Fasch's Concerto for Two Flutes, Two Oboes, and Two Bassoons in D minor. The orchestra lilted, but aforementioned woodwinds were somewhat squeaky at times. Genaux joined the musicians for three Vivaldi arias: "Cor mio che sei" from Atenaide, "Sin nel placido soggiorno" from La fede tradita, and "Alma oppressa" from La fida ninfa. The playing was clean and spirited. Genaux was obviously listening to the orchestra, and seemed quite genial. Her sound is precise, warm, and clear. Before intermission we heard the charming Concerto in D major, TWV 44:1 "Sinfonia Spirituosa" by Telemann. The playing was light and sweet. Genaux returned to the stage for Porpora's "Or la nube procellosa" from Artaserse and "Oh volesser gli Dei...Dolci, freschi aurette" from Polifemo. These arias, along with the following "Qual guerriero in campo armato" from Broschi's Idaspe, were written for Farinelli. Genaux breathing was audible but not distracting, her breath well supported. The overall effect was altogether lovely. Genaux's encore was "Agitata da due venti" from Vivaldi's Griselda. She explained that "due venti" also means "220," as in the voltage formerly used in Italy. The evening ended with Ramaeu"s Orchestral suite from La Guirlande, which featured the percussionist on bells, drum, triangle, and tambourine.

* Tattling * 
Executive Director of PBO, Peter Pastreich, asked us to turn off our cellular phones before the performance, as they are not period instruments. Perhaps he was inspired by the phone that rang during Jarrousky's concert earlier in the day, which Pastreich also attended. In any case, no electronic noise was noted here.

PBO plays Mozart, Beck, & Haydn

Kelley_R_J_c_Matt_Dine * Notes * 
Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra opened the 2011-2012 season with Mozart, Beck, and Haydn. The concert started with Mozart's Symphony No. 38 in D major. The playing lilted, the brass seemed slightly rawer in style compared to the strings and woodwinds. The featured soloist of the program was R.J. Kelley (pictured left, photograph by Matt Dine), playing Mozart's Concerto pasticcio for Horn in E-flat major with the orchestra. The natural horn just seems an impossible instrument to play in tune, and one wonders what sort of personality is drawn to such a difficult vocation. Kelley made a good go of it, and sounded best in the second movement Romanza. The instrument can have a warm and mellow quality that is quite beautiful.

The second half of the performance gave us a cheerful rendition of Beck's overture from La mort d'Orphée. Haydn's Symphony No. 98 rounded off this delightful evening. The oboe sounded particularly nice, and the playing altogether was animated and genial.

* Tattling * 
Some latecomers seated in the back of the orchestra level held up the performance in between the two Mozart pieces. A cellular phone was heard during the last piece, again from this area.

MMDG's Dido and Aeneas

MMDG_Dido&Aeneas_08_Credit_BeatrizSchiller  * Notes * 
The Mark Morris Dance Group (pictured left, photograph by Beatriz Schiller) opened the new season at Cal Performances with Dido and Aeneas yesterday evening. The audience seemed completely rapt by the experience, and I have never attended a Baroque opera with so little fidgeting or noise. Morris fills all the music with choreography, so there is not a moment in which audience members feel comfortable speaking, especially since the work is only an hour long without an intermission. The dancing is unsentimental and not overly pretty. Limbs were thrown about at angles, and looked rather different on each of the 12 dancers. There were times when the choreography was much more like miming than dancing, and Morris is not shy of being crude. Humor was infused into many of the scenes, especially when dealing with witches or sailors. The dancers characterized their different roles clearly.

The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra started off less crisply than usual under Mark Morris himself, but did often sound lovely. There was a slight squeaky quality to the dance at the end of Scene 2. The chorus also sounded fine. Since all of the singing was from the pit, most of the soloists sounded a bit like they were singing from the bottom of a well. Soprano Yulia Van Doren (Belinda, First Witch) sang prettily, and soprano Céline Ricci (Second Woman, Second Witch) was distinct from her. Brian Thorsett sounded bright though not hefty as the Sailor. Philip Cutlip (Aeneas) sang with warmth and lightness. Stephanie Blythe gave a vivid performance as both Dido and the Sorceress. Her voice has both volume and gravity.

* Tattling * 
The audience members around me were almost completely silent and no electronic noise was noted.

PBO Summer Festivals Tour 2011

Pbo-deyoung * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra left San Francisco today to start a tour of summer festivals. The ensemble plays Händel's Orlando at the Ravinia Festival tomorrow, at Mostly Mozart on Saturday, and at Tanglewood next Tuesday. The semi-staged opera was performed by PBO in the Bay Area last year, with many of the same soloists.

PBO had a rehearsal in Berkeley yesterday, and the orchestra sounded bright and together under the direction of Maestro Nicholas McGegan. The cast shows a lot of promise. Wolf Matthias Friedrich (Zoroastro), Diana Moore (Medoro), and Dominique Labelle (Angelica) were consistent with their previous performances, and will undoubtedly do well. Yulia van Doren sang Dorinda very prettily. The Act I Scene 12 trio with van Doren, Moore, and Labelle was especially splendid. In the title role (written for Senesino), Clint van der Linde has his work cut out for him. Van der Linde sounded absolutely lovely in the Adagio part of Act II, Scene 11.

The Creation at PBO

Pbo3 * Notes * 
Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra end the season with five performances of The Creation by Haydn. Last night's offering in Berkeley was gratifying and jubilant. McGegan kept the proceedings vivacious, and only a few moments were chaotic, most evident in the end of Part II. The dynamics throughout were distinct. The chorus had a translucent sound.

The three soloists were obviously talented. Baritone Philip Cutlip was easy to understand and could always be heard. His duet with soprano Dominique Labelle in Part III was playful and winsome. Labelle sang pleasantly, and was never shrill. Her sturdy voice was only lost briefly in the "The marv'lous work beholds amaz'd," which is sung with the chorus. Her trills in the first aria of Part II ("O mighty pens") were most impressive. The tenor, Thomas Cooley, sang with ease. His bright voice did not sounded pressed when singing high notes, and his diction was clear. One particularly appreciated his pianissimo in the recitative "And God created man."

* Tattling * 
The audience members in the first three rows seemed rather quiet, only intermittently giggling at the jolly text.

PBO's 2011-2012 Season

September 15-17 2011: Dido & Aeneas
September 22-25 2011: Mozart & Haydn
October 25-30 2011: Arias for Farinelli
November 18-22 2011: Marion Verbruggen & The Italian Baroque
December 2-6 2011: Bach's Mass in B minor
January 26-29 2012: Richard Egarr: Masters of the English Baroque
March 6-11 2012: Steven Isserlis: The Classical Cello
April 20-25 2012: Händel's Alexander's Feast

Philharmonia Baroque announced their next season today. Stephanie Blythe will be singing Dido in Dido and Aeneas this September, Mark Morris Dance Company performs. Vivica Genaux sings in the October performances of Vivaldi, Fasch, Telemann, and Rameau.

Official Site | 2011-2012 Season

David Daniels at PBO

_for_website_-_Daniels___Robert_Recker_licensed_to_Virgin_Classics * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra opened a run of performances featuring countertenor David Daniels last night in Berkeley. Nicholas McGegan first conducted Telemann's Concerto for Three Horns and Violin in D major. The orchestra bounced delightfully but despite their efforts, the horns had more than one painful moment. One imagines this instrument must be devilishly hard to play. The concertmaster and violin soloist, Carla Moore, sounded quite good in the second movement Grave. Daniels joined the orchestra for Vivaldi's Stabat Mater. He sang with warmth and sweetness. There was a bit of warbling but nothing terribly distracting. The quietness of "Quis est homo" was lovely and the strings sounded particularly vibrant in "Eja mater, fons amoris." After the intermission, Daniels returned to sing arias from Händel's Il triofo del Tempo e del Disinganno, Radamisto, and Agrippina. "Perfido, di a quell'empio tiranno" was strident and "Voi che udite il mio lamento" mournful. Daniels sang "Qual nave smarrita" from Act III of Radamisto as an encore. The concert ended with Telemann's Suite in F major, which was played with insouciance. The Die concertierenden Frösche Krähen was rather silly but certainly amusing.

* Tattling * 
The people in the center of the front balcony were silent for the first half, but the women in the middle of Row E spoke during David Daniel's first aria after the break. A watch alarm was heard at 9pm during this piece as well. The couple in E 211 and 212 also talked during the second half but responded appropriately when they noticed they were audible to other audience members.

Messiah at PBO

Nicholas-mcgegan-pbo * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's latest offering of Händel's Messiah was very jolly. Nicholas McGegan conducted the third of four concerts last Sunday in Berkeley in his usual chipper way. The orchestra was together and in tune, as was the chorus. The soloists included soprano Mary Wilson, countertenor Daniel Taylor, tenor John McVeigh, and bass Tyler Duncan. The overall impression was that of airy lightness, though all could be heard.

* Tattling * 
A woman in Row O made a request for me to switch from my aisle seat with my companion so that she could see the stage, because I am rather short. Naturally her companion inanely exclaimed that the piece was in English once the tenor started. A cellular phone rang during the aria "He was despised and rejected of men."

Le quattro stagioni at PBO

PBO_byRandiBeach * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's latest program features Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, and the first of five performances under Nicholas McGegan occurred last night at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. The first piece, Corelli's Concerto grosso Op. 6, No. 11 in B-flat major, was played jauntily but seemed a bit flustered. The Pergolesi that came next, Sinfonia in F Major, went more smoothly. The music shifted from elegant to cheerful with grace. Concertmaster Carla Moore sounded particularly determined.

Oddly, the Vivaldi concerti were divided by the intermission. On the whole the sound was bracing, yet jolly. The ensemble bolstered the violin soloist, Elizabeth Blumenstock, who played with great vigor. The violist seemed out of tune for the beginning of the Largo in La Primavera, and Blumenstock herself appeared to struggle with intonation in L'autunno's first Allegro. The beginning of L'inverno was played sul ponticello, and producing a humorous squeakiness, and providing a striking contrast with what followed. Zavateri's Concerto in D Major was verdant, and Durante's Concerto No. 5 in A Major quite vivid.

* Tattling * 
Our group of friends was made tardy by a certain latecomer to dinner beforehand. We did just make it in just as McGegan came on stage, who may have noted our appearance as we did have to ask someone to move from our seats. The person next to me in K 112 tapped her foot with the music, and I also heard someone's watch ticking distinctly during the Vivaldi in the first half. Neither of these was a problem in the second half as the people in question disappeared. There was some talking, especially from the man who moved from K 114 to J 112. My companion noted that a person wearing a salmon-colored shirt across the aisle fell asleep.