Handel’s ‘Theodora’ brought back to life

Weill Hall was packed to a capacity crowd Saturday evening for the masterpiece oratorio known as George Frideric Handel’s “Theodora” (1750), guided by the artistic director of The English Concert and the renowned concert and opera conductor Harry Bicket.

Considered one of Europe’s most excellent Baroque orchestras, Bicket was aided by the vocal talent of mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly (Irene), tenor Kurt Streit (Septimius), countertenor David Daniels (Didymus), bass-baritone Neal Davies (Valens) and soprano Dorothea Röschmann (Theodora), who made her San Francisco Bay Area debut.

Tenor Andrew Kennedy was originally set to make an appearance as Septimius, but has reportedly taken a short vocal leave according to The English Concert’s Facebook page and was replaced by vocalist Streit.

Having performed the two-act opera “Die Zauberflöte” (German for “The Magic Flute”) in 23 different productions around the globe, Streit has been studied as one of the world’s finest Mozart interpreters throughout his career.

Headlining as well with the piece was the Choir of Trinity Wall Street of New York City directed by Julian Wachner, who also supervises all professional, liturgical and community Music and Arts program arrangements at Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel.

Handel’s “Theodora” is presented in three acts set to an English libretto by Thomas Morell, involving Theodora, a Christian martyr, and her lover Didymus, a Christian-converted Roman. 

Full of revenge, lust and the power of virtue, Handel’s penultimate oratorio includes an array of the composer’s most inspirational and heart-wrenchingly celestial music.

Oratorios are described as grand musical composition for soloists, choir and orchestra, similar to an opera yet distinctively a concert piece and not musical theatre. 

However, sometimes oratorios are organized as operas; likewise for operas being given in concert form.

For first time goers of an event like this, an observation can be made of the atmosphere and appreciation of the music that is being presented. 

The audience has very little interaction with the show, other than collectively keeping track of the text and following along, which is one of the more relaxing aspects to engage in as lines are often repeated in certain scenes.

Each individual artist of The English Concert has their own unique vocal styling and background which have helped contribute to their roles in the performance. 

Conductor Bicket is especially known for his interpretation of Classical and Baroque repertoire, having become director in 2007 and appointed as chief conductor of the Santa Fe Opera in October 2013.

Connolly is a native of County Durham, England where she studied singing and piano at the Royal College of Music, where she is now a Fellow. 

In 2011 she was honored with the Distinguished Musician Award by the Incorporated Society of Musicians.

Daniels is an American artist who was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, who has not only been hunted after for the works of Handel, but also of Mozart, Monteverdi, Gluck and Britten. 

He holds the 1997 Richard Tucker Award and Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year in 1999.

Davis did his studies at King’s College, London and the Royal Academy of Music, and in 1991 he won the Lieder Prize in the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. 

Röschmann, from Flensburg, Germany, is regarded as one of the most exceptionally admired singers that her generation has to offer and has performed many notable roles at the Salzburg Festival.

The next upcoming performance at the Green Music Center will be Trio Ariadne and The Decoda Ensemble, scheduled for Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m. 

Price of the event is free, but a ticket will be required nonetheless. 

More information for upcoming GMC events can be found at gmc.sonoma.edu/events.