A Herculean Effort: Ars Lyrica Returns Home to the Hobby Center

Houston, TX,  AUGUST, 2021 — Ars Lyrica Houston, the Grammy-nominated early music ensemble, opens its Turning Points season with Bach, Handel, and Hercules. Featuring contrasting interpretations of the Herculean myth by both Bach and Handel, the concert marks the homecoming for the ensemble to the Hobby Center on Friday, September 24, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. Headlining the program is a pantheon of remarkable singers including countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, mezzo-soprano Leia Lensing, tenor Steven Brennfleck, baritone Jason Zacher, and soprano Nola Richardson, who is making her debut with Ars Lyrica. 

Longing for days gone by is a familiar conceit, both today and in the past. In the middle of the 1500s, a group called the Florentine Camerata met to discuss and debate how music should mimic the Greek dramatic style, which was believed to embody a reciting style between speech and song. From this discussion, the genre of opera was born, and it was inspired by greek myths including those of Orpheus, Dido and Aeneas (which, incidentally, also appears on the Turning Points season in May 2022), and of course Hercules. On choosing to pair these two interpretations, artistic director Matthew Dirst says, “Hercules has been a pillar of mythology since Antiquity. He faces the relatable dilemma of temptation, which found significant resonance in the Baroque era when ancient stories were used as a principal source of moral instruction.” In their own way, each composer treats  Hercules’ temptation and ultimate embrace of virtue with their own signature style in bravura arias and grand ensemble pieces. 

Dirst cast Metropolitan Opera Council Winner and Ars Lyrica regular Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen in the titular role, flanked by a host of singers familiar to their audiences as well as newcomer, soprano Nola Richardson. Cohen made his mark on yet another mythology-themed opera, Agrippina, when he sang alongside countertenor John Holiday in 2018. “What I love about these settings is when we get to see an intimate side of these romantic heroes. It’s not just about the archetype of the hero: it’s about showing the human side of them,” says Cohen about bringing to life the heroes of stories past. 

Get the best seats for Ars Lyrica Houston’s 2021/22 season. Subscriptions are on sale now at www.arslyricahouston.org or call the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Box Office at 713.315.2525 (Press 4 for Ars Lyrica Houston). Single tickets will go on sale August 24. 

Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music in its original context while creating connections to contemporary life. Intelligent programming features neglected gems alongside familiar masterworks, and extracts the dramatic potential, emotional resonance, and expressive power of music. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston. Ars Lyrica appears regularly at international festivals and conferences because of its distinctive focus, and its pioneering efforts in the field of authentic performance have won international acclaim.   

Bach, Handel, and Hercules

Ars Lyrica’s 2021/22 season: Turning Points  

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