PERFORMANCE PROGRAMS by Season
Click on the concert title to view the digital copy of our printed program.
From Brandenburg to Esterházy
Ars Lyrica’s 2018/19 season finale travels from Brandenburg to Esterházy, with Bach’s two remaining concertos and a concerto by Franz Joseph Haydn. The second “Brandenburg” concerto offers the set’s oddest combination of soloists—recorder, oboe, violin, and trumpet—while the fourth is a stealth concerto, ostensibly for violin and two recorders, though the violinist leaves everyone in the dust. Baroque violinist Ingrid Matthews joins harpsichordist and artistic director Matthew Dirst at center stage, along with Paul Leenhouts (recorder), Kathryn Montoya (Baroque oboe), and Nathaniel Mayfield (natural trumpet).
San Giovanni Battista
This 1675 oratorio tells the story of the death of John the Baptist with great flair and vivid drama. The prodigiously gifted Italian composer Alessandro Stradella took no prisoners in life or in art: his vocal lines, by turns acrobatic and deeply expressive, resemble his brief but spectacular career. Our cast for this performance, the Houston premiere of San Giovanni Battista, includes counter-tenor Jay Carter in the title role, soprano Sherezade Panthaki as Herodiade, tenor Joseph Gaines as Consigliero, and bass-baritone Sam Handley as Herod.
These game-changing publications from 1607 and 1632 gave life to one of the most famous debates in music history: Monteverdi’s experimental style of vocal writing favored the words, whose careful expression justified the occasional compositional impropriety. Love in all its delicious colors is on the menu, as served up by soprano Dominique McCormick, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte and baritone Brian Shircliffe.
Our New Year’s Eve spotlight shines on violinist Adam LaMotte and Ars Lyrica core instrumentalists, as we ring in 2019 with three dazzling concertos. The first and third “Brandenburg” concertos are brilliant ensemble works for strings and winds. Baroque Razzle-Dazzle pairs these works with an equally extravagant violin concerto by Bach’s close contemporary Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello, who served the Württemberg court in Stuttgart.
An instant sensation at its premiere in Venice in 1709, Agrippina established the young Handel’s reputation as a theatrical genius. Its tuneful score, abundant humor, and classic Roman intrigue make for a delightful evening at the opera. The cast for Ars Lyrica’s production of this early masterpiece includes: Sofia Selowsky, Agrippina, John Holiday, Nero, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Ottone, Camille Ortiz, Poppea, Timothy Jones, Claudio, Tara Faircloth, stage director, Matthew Dirst, conductor.
Re-Gifting with Royalty
Leading composers of the Baroque era often repurposed their own works, especially when a royal patron needed a special gift. Bach and Couperin were expert re-gifters: Bach’s “Six Concertos for Diverse Instruments” (as he titled them) were assembled, not composed afresh, for the Margrave of Brandenburg, while Couperin collected his chamber music at regular intervals for the royal seal of approval from Louis XIV. The fifth and sixth “Brandenburg” concertos turned the genre on its head, with an unprecedented harpsichord cadenza (in No. 5) and a violin-free texture of lower strings only (in No. 6).
A Day with Marie Antoinette
This special evening with France’s most famous queen includes a violin concerto by her music teacher Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, operatic excerpts from C. W. Gluck’s Orphée, and Haydn’s “Paris” Symphony No. 85, subtitled “The Queen.”
Long Live the Queen
In a program featuring the award-winning Moores School Concert Chorale, Ars Lyrica celebrates the musical legacy of two important royal patrons from the Baroque era with J. S. Bach’s rarely heard Trauerode, written for the funeral of Christiane Eberhardine of Saxony, and Handel’s Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne.
Esther & Jonah
Ars Lyrica’s 2018 Houston Early Music Festival program, offered in collaboration with Bach Society Houston, pairs two concise music dramas from opposite ends of the 18th century: Handel’s Esther (1718) and Samuel Felsted’s Jonah (1775). With gorgeous arias and stirring choruses in abundance, the former celebrates an Old Testament heroine’s victory over the forces of evil while the latter is the first American oratorio.
New Year's in Berlin
To ring in the new year, Ars Lyrica recreates a salon chez Sara Itzig Levy in Berlin, whose home was a meeting place for literary and musical giants, including Bach’s eldest sons and the young Felix Mendelssohn, Levy’s grandnephew. This program features a C. P. E. Bach double concerto for fortepiano and harpsichord, a work closely connected with our legendary hostess: at its 1788 première, Mme. Levy herself played one of the solo parts! The evening also includes an elegant pre-concert dinner and post-concert gala.
The decades around 1600 saw a remarkable flowering of female musical talent, virtuoso singers especially. Italian Sirens is devoted to these unique voices, as realized in the work of three remarkable early 17th-century composers: Isabella Leonarda, Francesca Caccini, and Barbara Strozzi.
Sweet Philomela A program featuring exotic musical works inspired by Philomela, mythical princess of Athens, whose transformation into a nightingale has fascinated poets and musicians for centuries, including Johann Adolph Hasse’s lyric cantata L’Armonica, showcasing the ethereal sounds of the glass harmonica.
Don Quixote's Excellent Adventures One of history’s greatest literary figures, Don Quixote has inspired many musical works over the years, from Renaissance songs to a Broadway musical. Ars Lyrica’s 2016/17 season finale features core string players and singers in a pan-European survey of Baroque music devoted to this Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha.
Les Plaisirs de Versailles
Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s witty chamber opera Les Plaisirs de Versailles—an ode to both wine and chocolate—plus chamber works by François Couperin and Joseph Bodin de Boismortier.
Handel’s final masterpiece, on a searing Old Testament tale about a foolish promise and its consequences—featuring a stellar cast of soloists and the award-winning Moores School of Music Concert Choral from the University of Houston.
Bachanalia: Cantatas for the New Year
A festive program rings in the New Year with cantatas J. S. Bach wrote specifically for this holiday plus other celebratory works.
Interest in the uncanny brought about tall manner of oddities during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, from was museums to gothic fiction. In chamber works from this era, musical depictions of the supernatural took on a life of their own outside the opera house. Shorn of traditional theatrical trappings, the purely aural spectres of J.C.F. Bach and Beethoven make powerful impressions, indeed.
Beloved works from late Baroque masters who catered to the emerging cult of the virtuoso, including J.S. Bach’s “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen.”
Featuring mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton in Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos and violinist Adam LaMotte in Vivaldi’s Autumn from The Four Seasons.
HOMAGE TO THE SUN KING
This program features Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s sparkling chamber opera Les arts florissants plus royal motets and chamber works by Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau.
FIRE AND ICE
New Year’s Eve 2015 brings a star-studded evening with music that is by turns hot and cold. Vivaldi’s Winter sets the stage for Handel’s Apollo e Dafne, which tells the story of too-ardent love and a unique transformation.
ALL IN A GARDEN GREEN
Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons plus spirited songs of the season from various cultures. PART OF THE 2016 HOUSTON EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAL
AN EASTER MESSIAH
The Orpheus Chamber Singers return to collaborate on Handel’s Messiah with conductor John Butt, 2014 Gramophone Award Winner, and stellar soloists.
Featuring Vivaldi’s Summer, Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto In D Minor, W. A. Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate, with countertenor John Holiday, baroque oboe and recorder player Kathryn Montoya, and harpsichordist Matthew Dirst.
French and Italian Baroque chamber works animate this program, featuring French-Italian Soprano Céline Ricci and viola da gambist Mary Springfels in G. F. Handel’s evocative Tra le fiamme.
Bach & Sons: At the Café
This program includes a rarely performed ode by Carl Phillipp Emanuel Bach, his younger brother Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach’s cantata Die Amerikanerin, plus patriarch Johann Sebastian Bach’s beloved “Coffee Cantata” in a new staging by Lynda McKnight.
On New Year’s Eve, Ars Lyrica offers a festive evening of celebration and beautiful music featuring soprano Melissa Givens and mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte.
A swoon advisory is thus in effect for this performance featuring duets from Claudio Monteverdi and cantatas by Vivaldi and Scarlatti.
Bach & Sons: At Court
Ars Lyrica’s season-long tribute to the Bach family continues with an evening of concertos by Johann Sebastian, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and Johann Christian Bach.
Our 2014/15 season finale provides abundant vocal and instrumental fireworks, with Alexander’s Feast—Or, The Power of Music by G.F. Handel, produced in collaboration with the Bach Society Houston.