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Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale presents Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus with tenor Nicholas Phan in the title role, December 5-8

Nicholas McGegan, a foremost authority on Handel, leads his last epic Handel oratorio as PBO music director with award-winning Chorale

November 4, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO—This holiday season, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) will present one of Handel’s most celebrated vocal works, as Nicholas McGegan, an international authority on Handel, conducts his final Handel oratorio as music director. Judas Maccabaeus, a stirring tale of the triumph of perseverance and peace over oppression, has endured relevance and popularity since its original performances, and PBO will perform this work for the first time since 1992. Powerhouse tenor Nicholas Phan takes on the title role of the conquering hero, and the award-winning Philharmonia Chorale led by Bruce Lamott shares the spotlight as the Chorus of Israelites. Performances take place throughout the Bay Area on December 5–8; see complete listing information below.

Judas Maccabaeus, premiered in 1747, was written to honor the Duke of Cumberland upon his victory in the Battle of Culloden in Scotland; the libretto draws primarily from the Book of Maccabees as well as Flavius Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews. The oratorio tells the triumphant underdog story of the Maccabees and their ultimate defeat of the Seleucid Empire, which had sought to destroy the Jewish religion. Nicholas Phan, a GRAMMY nominee and PBO favorite last heard on the Philharmonia Baroque Productions’ 2019 recording of Handel’s Joseph and his Brethren, brings star power to the inspiring role of Judas, while baritone William Berger sings the role of Judas’s brother Simon. The rest of the cast includes soprano Robin Johannsen, mezzo-sopranos Sara Couden and Jacque Wilson, and bass-baritone Sepp Hammer. Fresh off their San Francisco Classical Voice Best of the Bay win for their triumphant performance in Handel’s Saul, the Philharmonia Chorale returns to perform another Handelian masterpiece.

Known for his infectious Handel performances, Nicholas McGegan has conducted nearly 150 Handel works throughout his 35-year tenure with PBO, including almost half of Handel’s nearly 70 major vocal works. Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale last presented a Handel oratorio back in April with Saul, which was met with glowing critical acclaim. Said San Francisco Chronicle writer Joshua Kosman, “McGegan and the orchestra…demonstrated yet again why the Handel oratorios have been such a triumphant staple of their work together over the past 30 years and more.”

Listing information:

“Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus
December 5-8, 2019

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

HANDEL Judas Maccabaeus

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

Stephanie Li
Marketing Associate