Afterlife Aspirations Pit Old Against New for HIP Houston Ensemble
Houston, TX, October 12, 2021 — Ars Lyrica Houston, the Grammy-nominated early music ensemble, mounts the first of two staged operas this season on a program entitled Eternity and the Underworld. Historically Informed Performance (HIP) is the hallmark of Ars Lyrica performances, which will be featured in Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata Ich habe genug BWV 82 as well as in a contemporary opera by Jonathan Dove, L’altra Eurydice (The Other Eurydice) for historical and modern instruments. The performance, conducted by artistic director Matthew Dirst and directed by Tara Faircloth, takes place on Saturday, November 13, 2021 at Zilkha Hall in the Hobby Center at 7:30 p.m.
Combining Bach and a contemporary monodrama by community-building composer Jonathan Dove “… sets old against new, the promise of everlasting peace against the frustration of unfulfilled dreams,” says program architect and artistic director Matthew Dirst. “While Bach’s meditation on death in Cantata 82 depicts the great beyond as a peaceful refuge, Jonathan Dove’s L’altra Eurydice (The Other Eurydice) transports us to the underworld, from which Pluto exposes the treachery of humanity.”
Adding additional contrast, Dirst opted for a lesser known setting of the Bach that features mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle instead of the traditional bass voice. It was not uncommon in the Baroque era for composers to revoice their works. This is the third of three known versions of Ich habe genug, arranged ten years after the original composition, which highlights the contrasting depths of the underworld with the higher voice of hope.
As with any historical performance, there is research involved. In this case, the preparation involves bass-baritone Douglas Williams, who takes on the role of Pluto in Dove’s work, finding a human connection to the god. “In all that’s been written about the god of the underworld since classical days, probably no text so fantastically and elaborately describes the geological architecture of his subterranean realm as Italo Calvino’s 1968 essay L’altra Euridice—from which this opera makes its libretto. Rather than presiding over the gloomy and static land of the dead as it is traditionally depicted in Greek mythology, Calvino’s Pluto is the commander of an inner earth environment of moving rock and shifting clouds of elements. From the very beginning of the opera he seeks to correct the surface-dweller’s interpretation of the Orpheus myth, and correct our dour perception of his realm.”
Eternity and the Underworld
Saturday, November 13, 2021 at 7:30 p.m.
Zilkha Hall, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
J. S. Bach, Ich habe genug, BWV 82
Jonathan Dove, L’altra Euridice (2001) *
Douglas Williams, bass-baritone º
Sarah Neal, mezzo-soprano º
Tara Faircloth, stage director
º Ars Lyrica debut
Run time: one hour without intermission
For tickets and subscription information, visit the Ars Lyrica website at https://www.arslyricahouston.org/underworld or call (713) 315-2525.
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.