I’m so excited to be going back to Handel. I am working with a terrific team and having a wonderful time shaping the music. Handel was a man of the theatre, a bold composer who expanded the conventions while using the language of his time. I have been enjoying highlighting all these details in the music, especially with our continuo players. These musicians (harpsichord, cello, archlute, theorbo, and baroque guitar) are the “heart” of the orchestra and can help paint the various actions on stage. Our continuo rehearsals have been filled with creative collaboration.
The singers are so beautifully cast for this production. John Holiday in the title role is a fabulous artist. Since the role was originally sung by soprano castrato it is often now sung by soprano or mezzo-soprano. Having an agile countertenor like John gives such power to the role. The warmth of mezzo-soprano Allegra De Vita in the role of Arsamenes (Xerxes’ brother) is truly moving.
The set designs by John Conklin are simple yet effective in supporting the emotional turmoil of Xerxes. A series of platforms slowly break apart as Xerxes is being challenged in his love conquest, but reunite at the end, when the puzzle is resolved. I so enjoy my collaboration with Tazewell Thompson, the stage director. He is a generous artist, open to everyone’s ideas; a kind and positive man who enables singers to be at their best.
I also greatly enjoy my “carriage house” retreat in Cherry Valley, with its gorgeous surroundings. Three ponds, a chorus of birds that would almost bring Messiaen back to life, wild flowers that can create the best bouquets, and corn that is growing so fast in the field. The fresh eggs from the farm close by are an extra pleasure!
To feel even more at home, I now have a bicycle that I can ride. The rolling hills are as hard as SF around here!
To be continued,