Handel’s Athelia – A Poet of the Human Heart, Pinchgut Opera

Athalia 1 Pinchgut

Athalia 1 PinchgutAcclaimed five-star early music company the Pinchgut Opera based in Sydney, produces early music delights, which feature the music of love and life.

Directed by Lindy Hume, the Pinchgut Opera will present the first of its two operas for its 2018 season, Handel’s great oratorio Athalia, to be held at the City Recital Hall, June 21-26, 2018.

HandelGerman born London based composer George Friderich Handel (1685-1759 presented his opera Athalia today considered a rare gem, as he passionately pursued excellence in his field and in his progressive age.

Completed in 1733, Athelia was first performed in the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford, before it headed for London and certain fame.

The outstanding work became a starting point for English oratorio.

Handel brilliantly achieved a good balance between austerity and exuberance without offending the various religious factions of his day.

Digging deep into the culture of his age, Handel contrasted with and complemented his German colleague J.S. Bach, another giant of the time, creating works that promoted the glory of the art of music.

Pinchgut 1The Pinchgut Opera company enjoys having a faithful band of followers, many of whom started with the first fine production Handel’s Semele. It was followed by composer Henry Purcell’s The Fairy Queen (2003) and overjoyed patrons were happy to quickly spread the word to the point, many seasons and performances since have been sold out.

This is a company which has built their excellent reputation by presenting musical experiences sublime and this year’s two presentations Athalia and Artaserse should be no exception.

Pinchgut 2Sung in English, the synopsis tells us ‘… Athalia is based on the story of the Biblical Queen Athalia, daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel who was determined to stamp out the Jewish line of kings descended from David. The powerful plot tells of the high priest Joad attempting to overthrow the despotic regime of the murderous and ambitious Queen. But one child has escaped the slaughter: Joas has been raised in secret by Josabeth, the wife of the high priest Joad. Can Athalia succeed in her dreadful purpose that all heirs to the throne are to be destroyed?’

Goodness, sounds quite ‘bloodthirsty’, humans can be an evil lot!

What scenes of horror round me rise!
I shake, I faint, with dire surprise!
Is sleep, that frees the wretch from woe,
To majesty alone a foe?

EMMA PEARSONThe performers are Australian Sopranos Emma Pearson (Athalia) and Miriam Allan (Josabeth), Countertenor Clint van der Linde (Joad), Tenor Brenton Spiteri (Mathan) and Baritone David Greco (Abner), who will appear supported by Cantillation Chorus and the period instrument playing Orchestra of the Antipodes, conducted by Dr. Erin Helyard, who will also play Harpsichord.

The gods, who chosen blessings shed
On majesty’s anointed head,
For thee their care will still employ,
And brighten all thy fears to joy*

Handel’s arias are today viewed as treasures of lyrical expression, as they expressed man’s sentiments and challenges with the main force of his new dramatic style, rendered by the chorus – often ‘complicated constructions of choral polyphony’, whose melodies nevertheless, sounded simple and straightforward.

Cantillation ChorusThe Cantillation Chorus founded in 2001, is an ensemble of fine voices with a big reputation for their agility and flexibility. The official chorus for the Pinchgut Opera, they are kept busy in the concert hall, opera theatre and recording studio.

Conductor, scholar, director, Helpmann award winning and all-round musician par excellence, Artistic Director Erin Helyard, has been integral to the success of the operas produced by the Pinchgut Opera since it was established in 2002.

Erin HelyardDr Helyard who considers Handel ‘a poet of the human heart’ is the Senior Lecturer in Musicology and Historical Performance at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music at the University of Melbourne and appears courtesy of that institution.

In 2005 Australian born soprano Emma Pearson won the Australian Singing Competition’s prestigious Marianne Mathy Scholarship, the Symphony Australia Young Artist Prize and the More Than Opera German-Australian Opera Grant.

This led to her contract at the Hessisches Staatstheater, Wiesbaden (2005-2014) and she performed in thirty roles for the company.

Soprano Emma Pearson as Queen of the Night

Soprano Emma Pearson as Queen of the Night

When she left, the State of Hessen awarded Emma the honorary title Kammersängerin (chamber singer), the youngest opera performer to have ever received such recognition, given an honour only awarded to the most distinguished opera singers.

The career track of Lyric Tenor Brenton Spiteri, has taken him in another direction. He won the Herald Sun Aria contest, which also meant travelling overseas to further his studies and he is at the moment with Opera Lyon in France.

Brenton SpiteriHaving performed with the Pinchgut before, Brenton is no stranger to demanding scores and intense characters and is renowned for always ‘expecting the unexpected’ when trying out for various role, putting his success down to ‘hard work’.

It’s also about immersing yourself in European culture, which is where opera arose, so he considers being overseas essential for expanding knowledge and experience.

Countertenor Clint van der LindeCountertenor Clint van der Linde would likely agree. His range of experience singing with opera companies around the world is vast and expansive.

He’s enjoyed masterclasses with some of the greats in his profession and gained a Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother Scholarship for a four year B-MusDegree at the Royal College of Music, London.

Miriam AllenSoprano Miriam Allen is ‘an international advocate for contemporary repertoire’ while performing historically acclaimed roles to much acclaim.

For Pinchgut Opera she has previously appeared in Semele (2002), The Fairy Queen (2003), Dardanus (2005), as Costanza in Griselda (2011), as Isifile in Giasone in 2013, and now Handel’s Athalia in 2018.

Baritone David Greco has sung in historically wonderful venues such as the Sistine Chapel Choir, Rome and in the Lay Clerks Choir at Westminster Abbey.

David GrecoBeginning his solo career singing first with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra (who performs period music on period instruments) he has expanded his experiences to sing with many wondrous groups and ensembles including England’s renowned Academy of Ancient Music.

He has also performed for the Pinchgut Opera before featuring in Rameau’s Dardanus , Charpentier’s David & Jonothan, and Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo.

Pretty-WomanThis will be a performance passionate early music enthusiasts and ‘pretty woman’ newcomers will be sure to clamour to attend, so secure your tickets NOW!

Rejoice, O Judah, this triumphant day!
Let all the goodness of our God display,
Whose mercies to the wond’ring world declare
His chosen people are his chosen care*.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018

Pinchgut Opera 2018 Season

Georg Friedrich Händel
ATHALIA (1733)

An Oratorio; or Sacred Drama
*Words by Samuel Humphreys

Thu 21 June 7pm | Sat 23 June 2pm | Sun 24 June 5pm | Tue 26 June 7pm 2018

Emma Pearson Athalia

Miriam Allan Josabeth

Clint van der Linde Joad

Brenton Spiteri Mathan

David Greco Abner

Freddy Shaw Joas

Orchestra of the Antipodes

Erin Helyard  Conductor and Harpsichord

Lindy Hume Director

Melanie Liertz Designer

Matthew Marshall  Lighting Designer

NB Cantillation Chorus representing Young Virgins, Israelites, Priests and Levites, Attendants and, Sidonian Priests

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