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Nobody does Handel like Nic McGegan

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Celebrate the triumph of perseverance and peace over oppressive adversity. Fire up the menorahs this holiday season—the conqu’ring hero comes! PBO favorite, tenor Nicholas Phan, rallies the troops in the title role of Handel’s heroic oratorio, one of the composer’s most enduringly popular works through his lifetime and since. Nic last brought this vital work to life in 1992, and he will conquer it again as only the foremost expert on Handel can! Nobody does Handel’s oratorios like Nic and Philharmonia.

HANDEL Judas Maccabaeus

Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Robin Johannsen, soprano (Israelitish Woman)
Sara Couden, mezzo-soprano (Israelitish Man)
Nicholas Phan, tenor (Judas Maccabaeus)
William Berger, baritone (Simon)
Jacque Wilson, mezzo-soprano (First and Second Messengers)
Sepp Hammer, bass-baritone (Eupolemus)

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale
Bruce Lamott, chorale director

December 5th sponsored by Kathleen & Martin Cohn; December 8th sponsored by The Paul and Susan Sugarman Family Philanthropic Fund

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Thursday December 5 @ 7 pm | Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Friday December 6 @ 7:30 pm | First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto
Saturday December 7 @ 7 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday December 8 @ 4 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley

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Join us for the Pre- Concert Talk forty-five minutes prior to the concert start time.

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Described by the Boston Globe as “one of the world’s most remarkable singers,” American tenor Nicholas Phan is increasingly recognized as an artist of distinction. Praised for his keen intelligence, captivating stage presence and natural musicianship, he performs regularly with the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies. Also an avid recitalist, in 2010 he co-founded the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC) to promote art song and vocal chamber music.

Phan once again launches his new season in Chicago, curating CAIC’s seventh annual Collaborative Arts Festival. This year’s three-day festival (Sep 5 – 8), “The Song as Drama,” will examine the narrative power of the song cycle and the ability of song to tell epic stories with minimal forces. Other highlights of his 2018-19 season are two role debutsEumolpus in Stravinsky’s Perséphone, with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony; and the title role in Handel’s Jephtha, with Boston Baroque and Martin Pearlman. The title role in Bernstein’s Candide, with Marin Alsop and the Israel Philharmonic, will mark his debut in Israel. In addition to three programs with the San Francisco Symphony, he will return to major orchestras across the country including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and Colorado Symphony. In November he will sing the first of many outings of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin this season, as he gives the world premiere of Antoine Plante’s arrangement of the cycle for full orchestra, with Mercury, the Houston-based orchestra of which Plante is the founder. A celebrated recording artist, Phan will be heard on two forthcoming recordings: Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette with Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, (recorded in June 2017); and Handel’s Joseph and His Brethren (recorded in December 2017) with Philharmonia Baroque and Nicholas McGegan, singing the roles of Simeon and Judah.

Phan’s most recent solo album, Illuminations, was released on Avie Records in April 2018. His previous solo album, Gods and Monsters, was nominated for the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo Album. His other previous solo albums, A Painted TaleStill Fall the Rain and Winter Words, made many “best of” lists, including those of the New York TimesNew YorkerChicago Tribune and Boston Globe. Phan’s growing discography also includes a Grammy-nominated recording of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella with Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony, the opera L’Olimpiade with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, Scarlatti’s La gloria di primavera with Philharmonia Baroque, an album of Bach’s secular cantatas with Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan, Bach’s St. John Passion (in which he sings both the Evangelist and the tenor arias) with Apollo’s Fire, and the world premiere recordings of two orchestral song cycles: The Old Burying Ground by Evan Chambers and Elliott Carter’s A Sunbeam’s Architecture.

Phan has appeared with many of the leading orchestras in the North America and Europe, including the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Philharmonia Baroque, Boston Baroque, Les Violons du Roy, BBC Symphony, English Chamber Orchestra, Strasbourg Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra of London, and the Lucerne Symphony. He has toured extensively throughout the major concert halls of Europe with Il Complesso Barocco, and has appeared with the Oregon Bach, Ravinia, Marlboro, Edinburgh, Rheingau, Saint-Denis, and Tanglewood festivals, as well as the BBC Proms.  Among the conductors he has worked with are Marin Alsop, Harry Bicket, Pierre Boulez, James Conlon, Alan Curtis, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Charles Dutoit, James Gaffigan, Jane Glover, Manfred Honeck, Bernard Labadie, Louis Langrée, Nicholas McGegan, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, John Nelson, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Helmuth Rilling, David Robertson, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Masaaki Suzuki, Michael Tilson Thomas, Bramwell Tovey and Franz Welser-Möst.

An avid proponent of vocal chamber music, he has collaborated with many chamber musicians, including pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode, Jeremy Denk, Graham Johnson, Roger Vignoles, Inon Barnatan, Myra Huang and Alessio Bax; violinist James Ehnes; guitarist Eliot Fisk; harpist Sivan Magen; and horn players Jennifer Montone, Radovan Vlatkovic and Gail Williams. In both recital and chamber concerts, he has been presented by Carnegie Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Atlanta’s Spivey Hall, Boston’s Celebrity Series, and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. In 2010, he co-founded the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, an organization that promotes the art song and vocal chamber music repertoire of which he is Artistic Director.

Phan’s many opera credits include appearances with the Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, Chicago Opera Theater, Seattle Opera, Portland Opera, Glyndebourne Opera, Maggio Musicale in Florence, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, and Frankfurt Opera. His growing repertoire includes the title roles in Bernstein’s Candide, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Handel’s Acis and Galatea, Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, Fenton in Falstaff, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, and Lurcanio in Ariodante. 

A graduate of the University of Michigan, Phan is the 2012 recipient of the Paul C Boylan Distinguished Alumni Award. He also studied at the Manhattan School of Music and the Aspen Music Festival and School, and is an alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. He was the recipient of a 2006 Sullivan Foundation Award and 2004 Richard F. Gold Career Grant from the Shoshana Foundation.  In 2018, Phan was appointed to the faculty of DePaul University, where he serves as an adjunct member of the voice faculty.



Baritone William Berger, recently described as “one of the best of our younger baritones” by Gramophone magazine, is making a name for himself in concert halls and opera houses on both sides of the Atlantic.

Following two years as a member of the Young Singers Programme at English National Opera, William made his debuts at Liceu Barcelona, Vlaamse Opera, Opera Lucerne, Opéra de Toulon and the Aix-en-Provence, Gottingen and Edinburgh International Festivals. Opera engagements have included the title role of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, “Escamillo” in Bizet’s Carmen, all of Mozart’s leading baritone roles, including Count Almaviva, Don Giovanni, Guglielmo, Papageno (Magic Flute for Opéra de Toulon), as well as roles in operas by Handel, Haydn, Puccini, Janáček and Weill.

In concert, William has performed at leading venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Zellerbach Hall and Los Angeles’ Disney Concert Hall, with orchestras and ensembles including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, English Consort, La Nuova Musica, Cape Town Philharmonic, Handel & Haydn Society, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Recent and upcoming concert highlights include Durufle’s Requiem with Pacific Symphony; Handel’s Joshua with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra; Messiah with St. Louis, National, and Phoenix Symphonies; Messiah and Bach’s St. John Passion with St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Bach’s Mass in B Minor with Ludus Baroque; Mozart’s Requiem with Philharmonie Zuidnederland; Brahms’ German Requiem with Flanders Opera Symphony Orchestra; Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum with Haddo Arts Festival and City of London Choir; a tour as soloist with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra; St. Matthew Passion with the Brabants Orkest in the Netherlands; Haydn’s Creation with the Orquesta Sinfonica del Principado de Asturias in Spain; concerts in Edinburgh with Ludus Baroque including Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s Triumph of Time and Truth; and a performance of Baroque chamber music at Paxton Festival.

Recent opera roles include Apollon in Charpentier’s Orpheus with Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company at Wigmore Hall, Marcello in La Boheme with Opera Vlaanderen and Opera de Rouen, Bill in Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogany with Opera Vlaanderen, Escamillo in Carmen with Cape Town Opera, Minskman in Jonathan Dove’s Flight with Opera Omaha, the title role in Handel’s Imeneo at the International Handel Festival Gottingen, Handel’s Athalia with Ludus Baroque, “Simon” in Handel’s Judas Maccabeus with Pacific Symphony, and Monteverdi’s Il Combattimento di Tancredi at the Spitalfields Festival.

Berger is also a gifted recitalist and recording artist. His 2016 CD, Duet (Delphian), revives the musically rich tradition of duet singing that reached its zenith in the Victorian age with works by Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Cornelius. In this recording (“Editor’s Choice”, “a small miracle to be cherished, BBC Music Magazine) Berger is joined by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Iain Burnside. Berger’s imaginative approach to programming led to the 2012 release of his debut recital disc, Insomnia: A Nocturnal Voyage in Song, on Delphian Records. This sequence of 17 songs, including compositions by Vaughn Williams, Debussy, Faure, Schubert and Wolf, portrays the sleepless night of a man reflecting on the absence of an unnamed lover. It was named as one of the “Top 10 Classical Albums of 2012” by The Guardian, and William’s performance was described as “sweepingly sensual”, “pure gold” (The Arts Desk) and “magnetic” (The Scotsman).

William’s, Hommage a Trois, released in 2013, was described as “one of the most delightful recital discs of the past year” by International Record Review, featured arias by Haydn, Mozart and Cimarosa with Nicholas McGegan and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and was awarded five stars by Opera Now. William’s discography includes Handel’s Alexander’s Feast for Delphian, Samson and Dettingen Te Deum for Carus, and Poulenc’s Carmelites for Chandos. On DVD, Berger is featured in Admeto for C Major and L’incoronazione de Poppea for Opus Arte. In 2014, William released a CD with Ludus Baroque of Handel’s Triumph of Time and Truth on Delphian Records.

Berger began his singing career at age 10 as a boy chorister in his native South Africa. He went on to study voice, piano, percussion and conducting, and is a graduate and Associate of London’s Royal Academy of Music. He is a recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including the 2010 Ernst Haefliger Competition in Switzerland, the Kathleen Ferrier Society Bursary for Young Singers, the Countess of Munster Trust Scholarship, the Musicians Benevolent Fund Grant and the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Award.



Berlin-based American soprano Robin Johannsen began her career as a young artist with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, after which she joined Oper Leipzig. Robin has gone on to establish an international career both on the opera stage and in concert with a special affinity for the Baroque and Classical repertoires.

Robin has appeared at Theater an der Wien, Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Athens’ Megaron, Staatsoper Berlin, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Teatro Regio Torino, Staatsoper Stuttgart, Oper Frankfurt, Vlaamse Opera, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Komische Oper Berlin, and Bayreuth Festival, where roles have included Susanna Le nozze di Figaro, Norina Don Pasquale, Oscar Un ballo in maschera, Venere/Giuturna Amor vien dal destino, title role Almira, Soeur Constance Les dialogues des Carmélites, Marzelline Beethoven’s Leonore, Konstanze Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Fiordiligi Così fan tutte, the title role of Telemann’s Emma und Eginhard, and Adina L’elisir d’amore.

She has a close working relationship with René Jacobs and the Freiburger Barockorchester, and is a frequent guest with the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, La Cetra Basel, the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, Concerto Köln, Academia Montis Regalis, and Belgium’s B’Rock. She has also collaborated with conductors such as Marin Alsop, Teodor Currentzis, Bernard Labadie, Antonello Manacorda, Andrea Marcon, Alessandro De Marchi, Raphaël Pichon, Jérémie Rhorer, and Christian Thielemann.

Robin Johannsen’s numerous concert engagements have included performances with the Dresden Philharmonic, OSESP São Paolo, RundfunkSinfonieorchester Berlin, Pygmalion, the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, and B’Rock Belgium, Academy of Ancient Music, RIAS Kammerchor, Freiburger Barockorchester, Academia Montis Regalis, Café Zimmermann, Concerto Köln, NDR Hannover, Helsinki Philharmonic, and Singapore Symphony, as well as at Berliner Philharmonie, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Essen Philharmonie, Gasteig Munich, Konzerthaus Berlin, Lucerne Festival, Paris Philharmonie, the Vatican, Salzburg’s Mozarteum and Tonhalle Zürich.

In the States, Robin has appeared with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, and Dallas Symphony Orchestras. She has also performed at Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center and Philadelphia Kimmel Center, as well as Carnegie Hall and the Oregon Bach Festival.

Her ever-growing discography includes recent additions of Telemann Cantatas with Concerto Melante (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi/Sony), the title role in Vinci’s Didone Abbandonata with the Lautten Compagney (for Sony Classical), and Handel’s Parnasso in festa with Andrea Marcon and La Cetra Basel (for Pentatone). She was awarded an Edison Classical Music Award for her performance as Konstanze Die Entführung aus dem Serail under René Jacobs for Harmonia Mundi. In May 2014, Sony Classical (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi/Sony) released Robin’s first solo disc, ‘In dolce amore’, a world premiere recording of baroque arias and cantatas by Antonio Caldara, conducted by Alessandro De Marchi.

Recent and future highlights include her debut at Theater an der Wien with Handel’s Teseo (Clizia), Festspielhaus Baden-Baden and Athens’ Megaron in a new production of Beethoven’s Leonore (Marzelline) with René Jacobs and the Freiburger Barockorchester; Telemann’s opera Miriways at NDR Hamburg’s Telemann-Festival under Bernard Labadie; a new production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail (René Jacobs, conductor; Andrea Moses, director) at Salzburg’s Mozarteum with the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin; and a revival of Purcell’s King Arthur at the Staatsoper Berlin. Concert work includes Rameau arias on tour with Teodor Currentzis and his orchestra MusicAeterna; Britten’s Les Illuminations with Tabea Zimmermann and Ensemble Resonanz in Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, Handel’s Messiah both at Haendel Festival Halle (La Cetra Barockorchester c. Andrea Marcon) and at the Cincinnati May Festival (Juanjo Mena and Cincinnati Symphony) and concerts with Concerto Köln and Mendelssohn’s Paulus with the Warsaw Philharmonic.


SARA COUDEN – mezzo-soprano

Praised for her beautiful, profound, and even tone, as well as her artistry and dramatic capabilities, contralto Sara Couden is equally at home in opera, concert, and chamber music. A former violist, choir singer, and literature major, Sara began seriously studying classical voice at age 23. She graduated from San Francisco Conservatory of Music with an M.M., Honors, in Opera, then went on to the Yale Institute of Sacred Music to earn her A.D. in Early Music, Chamber Music, and Oratorio, after which she spent three years at the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, from which she graduated in 2017. Sara has participated as a young artist at the Music Academy of the West and the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, and has been a fellow at the Marlboro Music Festival, Music@Menlo, and the Staunton Music Festival. She has studied with Marilyn Horne, Dolora Zajick, Ken Noda, Cesar Ulloa, Warren Jones, Roger Vignoles, James Taylor, Nic McGegan, Masaaki Suzuki, Fred Carama, and Ted Taylor, and has been coached by Renata Scotto and Deborah Voigt.

Sara made her Met debut as Tetka, the angry rock-gatherer, in the 2016 production of Jenufa. She then sang the role of the gentle and dignified Abbess Albine in Thaïs, and has covered Erste Magd in Elektra, Marta/Pantalis in Mefistofele, and the Voice from Above in Parsifal. As an opera singer, Sara offers a beautiful, profound, and audible low range, a lovely and controlled high range, and nuanced legato as well as accurate coloratura. She is adept at a wide variety of styles, from monody (Penelope, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria; Testo, La Susanna) to modernity (Baba, The Medium; workshop of new short operas by NYU composers). She is always eager to explore the tragic and terrifying, but is also a gifted and enthusiastic comedian, which comes out in pieces such as La Grande Duchesse de GerolsteinFalstaff, or Pirates of Penzance.

Sara’s rare vocal range and controlled audibility make her an ideal oratorio and concert singer, able to fulfill the demands of some of the most beautiful standards in the classical orchestral repertoire. She is a huge fan of the directness of concert music, the immediate and unfiltered possibilities of connection between artist and audience, and is excited about the possibilities of new work while maintaining absolute devotion to the standard contralto orchestral repertoire. Considering the depth and breadth of that music—Messiah, Mass in B Minor, both PassionsElijah, the Alto Rhapsody, Mahler’s symphonies, song-cycles, and tone-poems, Elgar’s works, Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins—how could she (or anyone!) not do so?

Sara loves the in-the-moment sense of intimacy and possibility that rehearsing and performing chamber music can give—the exchange of ideas and feelings both verbal and nonverbal, definite and indefinable. She is equally eager to perform standard repertoire (Brahms’ viola songs are a beloved part of her repertoire, one of the first chamber music pieces she ever sang, even when she was mostly a violist at age 16, and continues to sing today) and new or rare work (Crumb’s Night of the Four Moons; Kristín Haraldsdóttir’s Bloodhoof; pieces by 16th-century nuns with New York’s TENET vocal ensemble). She loves to support and commission new chamber music as well, and is an eager and flexible collaborator.

Sara believes that accuracy and beautifully-produced sound are the foundations (though not the end goals) of stunning performance. She is constantly trying, learning, and improving on all fronts in order to be able to do the best, loveliest, most thrilling, most communicative, and most deeply-connected work that she possibly can. When she’s not striving toward these goals, she can be found watching dumb TV, reading fiction, experimenting with cooking, visiting botanical gardens, and writing blunt poems on her phone.

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“For Nicholas Phan, …singing is as much a crusade as an art form.”

—Chicago Tribune

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2019-20 Season

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