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Jacob Dassa, PBO |
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  • Two major Handel programs & new staging of Handel opera by Louisa Muller starring Anthony Roth Costanzo & Nicole Heaston
  • PBO & Apollo’s Fire join forces for Jews & Music
  • New commission by composer Mason Bates
  • Opening night Gala with Anthony Roth Costanzo in Handel’s Amadigi
  • Thirteen guest artist debuts: Joshua Bloom, Deanna Breiwick, Spencer Britten, Rihab Chaieb, Helen Charlston, Siman Chung, Nicole Heaston, Maya Kherani, Kangmin Justin Kim, Julie Roset, Andrew Tortise, Stefanie True, and Jonathan Woody
  • SESSIONS returns with innovative program created by Davóne Tines, Nola Richardson, and David Belkovski
  • Nicholas “Nic” McGegan returns for first time as Music Director Laureate

SAN FRANCISCO—Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) comes roaring into its 2022/23 season with programming, artists, ideas and venues that reflect its versatility and unique place among orchestras and opera companies alike. The season showcases historically-informed performance at its best in the 21st century—with PBO at the center of what a classical music ensemble can and should be for modern and diverse audiences. Richard Egarr returns for his third year as Music Director in a season that is consciously daring without ever losing sight of core repertoire, albeit through a changing lens. It is a season that spans everything PBO has become over the past decade—featuring so many rising stars and established soloists, influencers and conductors; world premieres and new productions; large scale choral works by Handel and Muffat; new twists on acclaimed series Jews & Music and SESSIONS; touring in Europe and on the East Coast to be announced soon. Taken as a whole, 22/23 commits fully to exploring and presenting what a Baroque ensemble can and should be in a classical landscape that must reach broadly and with intentionality.

PBO kicks off its Bay Area 22/23 season with dramatic flair with Handel’s Theodora (October 20–23), a stunning oratorio with Music Director Richard Egarr leading the Orchestra & Chorale with a cast of extraordinary soloists, including mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston who will make both her PBO and American debut, soprano Julie Roset in her PBO debut, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, tenor Thomas Cooley, and bass-baritone Dashon Burton. Philharmonia has presented Theodora only once before and not since 1991.

PBO Music Director Laureate Nicholas McGegan returns for the first time since he retired (November 16–20) to lead the Orchestra in a quintessentially “Nic” program. Vaudeville Baroque, a delightful and spirited program from the French baroque, pairs Jean-Philippe Rameau’s enchanting suite from the opéra-ballet Les Surprises de l’Amour, and André Campra’s Le Carnaval de Venise, a smash hit in his time.

Richard Egarr will conduct his very first PBO Messiah (December 14–18) with a star lineup—soprano Stefanie True, tenor Andrew Tortise, bass Joshua Bloom (all of whom made their PBO debuts during PBO’s 2020/VIRTUAL programming), and mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb in her PBO debut—with full Orchestra and the Philharmonia Chorale. Handel’s epic work in the hands of Egarr and period instruments will not be any ordinary Messiah.

The brilliant and inimitable Steven Isserlis brings intense and virtuosic performances on violoncello February (9–12) in Old Friends Made New, a big and ambitious Romantic program led by Richard Egarr. Longtime friends, the two have traversed the baroque and romantic musical canons over many years, and this time they come together with the Orchestra for Camille Saint-Saëns Concertos for Violoncello No. 1 in A Minor and No. 2 in D Minor. The impassioned first and the fiendishly technical and fiery second in the hands of Isserlis and played on period instruments will surely make for an edge of the seat experience. Egarr restores tranquility and carries us to exultation with Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in D Major. Playing familiar music performed in fresh ways on period instruments is a hallmark of PBO’s programming.

SESSIONS, PBO’s alternative concert series now seven years running, returns in February (16–17), in a program titled The Artist as Human, designed by Creative Partner Davóne Tines and his colleagues, conductor and keyboardist David Belkovski and soprano Nola Richardson. Audiences will hear from the artists as they explore their personal connections to the music and art they make through the lenses of gender, race and sexuality and will share insights on how these themes emerge through old and new music they perform—from J.S. Bach, John Blow, Henry Purcell, Tarik O’Regan, Katherine Balch and others.

Now in its 6th year, Jews & Music (JAM) remains at the forefront of PBO’s offerings. Scholarly, provocative, and musical, Jews & Music will collaborate with GRAMMY-winning conductor Jeannette Sorrell—bringing together members from her ensemble Apollo’s Fire, alongside the Philharmonia Chamber Players and singers from the Philharmonia Chorale in a unique collaboration between two of the country’s most vital historical performance ensembles. The dynamic program titled DIASPORA: Jewish Music of Longing & Celebration, will take place in March (15–16) and will draw on Sorrell’s work in acclaimed recordings of Jewish music and her own Jewish roots to create an exploration of Sephardic, Roman and Ashkenazy musical traditions. The March 16 performance includes an optional Jewish buffet dinner with the artists; both concerts include post-show complimentary wine.

Kristian Bezuidenhout makes his long-awaited return to Philharmonia, this time as both conductor and fortepianist in A Glassful of Mozart in March (25–31). The concerts feature Kris’ stunning interpretation of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, J.C. Bach’s Symphony in G minor, and an overture by Joseph Martin Kraus, a work that had great influence on the young Mozart. Kraus was nicknamed the ‘Swedish Mozart’ and was known for sudden twists and turns in the harmony of his music. Together with the Orchestra, this program promises the best of early classical repertoire, led by a real master who also serves as principal guest director of the English Concert and artistic director of the Freiburger Barockorchester.

Before the end of the mainstage season, April (20–22) brings demons, jealousy, sorcery and high emotion in Handel’s dramatic opera Amadigi di Gaula, led by Richard Egarr and starring countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, sopranos Deanna Breiwick and Nicole Heaston, countertenor Kangmin Justin Kim, with stage direction by Louisa Muller, who is on the directing staff of both The Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago. This production marks Philharmonia’s first co-production with Boston Baroque. The opening night performance on April 20 will be PBO’s 2023 Spring Gala.

The season comes to a close with From Muffat to Mason in April (27–30) in a program that sums up PBO’s mission with exceptional clarity. Led by Richard Egarr, the Missa in labore requies (Muffat Mass) is a baroque work rarely performed and richly textured with Orchestra, Chorale and eight voices—sopranos Maya Kherani and Nola Richardson, countertenors Reginald Mobley and Siman Chung, tenors James Reese and Spencer Britten, and bass-baritones Cody Quattlebaum and Jonathan Woody. The Muffat Mass has been performed only one other time in the Bay Area. The program is rounded out with a beautiful sonata by Franz Biber and a wrenching lament by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, two of the most vital composers in the baroque repertoire. It’s only natural that composer Mason Bates, one of the key disruptors, innovators, and improvisors of 21st century classical music, rubs shoulders with these baroque giants, bringing together the world of orchestral music in a new work that will tie this program up with a balance of old and new.

Davóne Tines continues in his role as Creative Partner, with intensive focus on high school music education, his role on PBO’s board of directors, and his work on strategic and artistic planning. Tarik O’Regan will continue his role as Composer in Residence, unveiling new commissions and partnerships to be announced soon.

About 2022/23, Music Director Richard Egarr says, “Historically-informed performance (HIP) as a way of thinking is absolutely not restricted to just Baroque and Classical music. The changes in both instruments and playing style was (and is!) continuing constantly, and period instruments are thrilling to hear, whether it’s Bach or something entirely new.”

“PBO figured out long ago that the way forward is to share music old and new in fresh ways that can reach anyone who wants to hear great music, whether they’ve been a subscriber for 42 years or just ready to be curious with that first ticket purchase. The artists on our stages, the composers we work with, our partners—they’re here to tell stories about music, about history and the history they’re making through their personal stories and interpretations of the past, present and future. That’s what historical performance is all about. And PBO chooses to meet this moment in history with authenticity and imagination and to surround ourselves with artists who have so much to teach us,” says Courtney Beck, Philharmonia Executive Director.