2018-2019· 38th Season
Nicholas McGegan, conductor

George Frideric Handel (1685–1759)

Saul (HWV 53)

Libretto by Charles Jennens

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

Saul
Merab
Michal
Jonathan
David
Samuel, Doeg
Witch of Endor, Abner, Amalekite
Chorus of Israelites

Daniel Okulitch, bass-baritone
Yulia Van Doren, soprano
Sherezade Panthaki, soprano
Aaron Sheehan, tenor
Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, countertenor
Christian Pursell, bass-baritone
Jonathan Smucker, tenor
Philharmonia Chorale, Bruce Lamott, director

Recorded at First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA | April 6–7, 2019

Recording production, engineering, editing and mastering: David v.R. Bowles (Swineshead Productions, LLC)
Production assistant: Boby Borisov

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Program Notes

by Bruce Lamott

There are few Biblical characters more sharply drawn than Saul, the unsuspecting first king of the united monarchy of Israel and Judah, a loving pater familias at times and a fratricidal maniac at others. The Book of First Samuel becomes a page-turner from the moment Saul is introduced as “the handsomest man in Israel, standing head and shoulders above the rest” to his ignominious death in battle, a failed suicide finished off by an enemy solder. The story of the rise and fall of Saul is fraught with drama: violence, madness, mayhem, and sorcery as well as jealousy, love, and the most undeniable description of bisexual devotion to be found in the Hebrew Bible.

The Backstory

As with many of Handel’s librettos from the Hebrew Bible, Saul assumes our knowledge of the Scriptural backstory. Saul became the first King of Israel, not through inheritance but by surprise. Young Saul, son of a wealthy man from the house of Benjamin, engaged the services of a local “seer”—who, it turns out, was the aged prophet Samuel—to help him find some lost donkeys. Samuel, the sole mediator of God’s power, covertly anoints Saul as the first king over Israel and Judah, the ruler for whose leadership the people had been clamoring. Following Samuel’s public declaration of this kingship, and under the Lord’s protection, Saul then goes on the attack against the enemies of Israel: the Ammonites, Philistines, and especially the Amalekites. The Lord specifically wants the latter utterly destroyed, “both man, woman, child, infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey,” because of their mistreatment of the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. Victorious in battle, however, Saul disobediently pillages their livestock and valuables and spares the life of their king, probably not out of mercy, but for ransom. Nor is Saul’s disobedience ameliorated by his dubious claim that the spoils of victory were to be offered as a sacrifice to the Lord. The Lord rejects the sacrifice, and old Samuel himself “hews in pieces before the Lord” the Amalekite king. Saul’s persistent and self-aggrandizing disobedience sets the stage for the oratorio with an ominous portent: “And the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” 

The Story

The three acts of the oratorio move from triumph to tragedy, reflected in the erudite titles of the libretto, from “An Epinicion, or Song of Triumph over Goliath and the Philistines,” to an “Elegy on the Death of Saul and Jonathan.” Act One begins with the celebration of David’s victory over Goliath and the Philistines, a violent action which is reported but not enacted, as in Greek drama. The principal roles in the cast are introduced in turn: Saul’s lovely daughter Michal, smitten with David, David himself, Saul’s haughty and class-conscious daughter Merab, and his eldest son Jonathan, whose reciprocated devotion to David is more vividly portrayed than any other relationship in the libretto or the Scriptures. 

The personality of Saul is not revealed until he reacts to the chorus of women who welcome him and David back from the victorious battlefield, singing “Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands,” thus unintentionally sparking the resentment of the king. The Bible attributes Saul’s change of heart to “an evil spirit from God,” remedied by the soothing playing of David’s lyre, but Saul jealously suspects that David is after his kingdom. Saul’s daughters reflect on their father’s mental illness in poetic terms: Michal describes it as “his own disease” of “rage and black Despaire,” and Herab, as a “capricious man in Humour lost, by every Wind of Passion tost.” Thus Act One opens with Saul welcoming David as a future son-in-law and comrade-in-arms and climaxes with his attempt on David’s life, a conflict reflected in Jonathan’s inner struggle to reconcile his “filial piety and sacred friendship.”

Act Two opens with the intercession of Jonathan on David’s behalf. Outwardly, Saul seems to be persuaded by his son’s entreaties and swears no harm. For a time, David naively accepts this apparent change of heart and begins to woo Michal as Saul’s son-in-law-elect. Inwardly, however,  Saul confesses his intention of sending David into battle with the Philistines in the hope that they will slay him. Suspecting that they are being set up, however, Michal and David prepare a dummy decoy for David in their bed, and David, once again fearing for his life, jumps out of a window and escapes. Saul then connives to lure back “this blaster of my Fame” for obligatory attendance at the Feast of the New Moon, and when Jonathan tries to cover for his frightened friend’s absence, Saul disavows Jonathan as well, hurling yet another spear, this one at his own son. 

Act Three has a formal symmetry, not only with the plot of the oratorio (the concluding Elegy balances the opening Epinicion] but also with the Biblical backstory. Remember that young Saul’s accession to the throne resulted from his engagement of a seer to find his missing donkeys? So King Saul’s demise begins with another resort to sorcery, this time because he feels forsaken by the Lord. Resolving that “If Heav’n denies thee Aid, seek it from Hell,” he goes to a witch in a cave at Endor, asking that she conjure up the spirit of the dead Samuel. Samuel, grumpily rising out of the “realm of peace” to the “world of woe,” rebukes Saul with reminders of his self-aggrandizing past. Samuel asks, “Did I not foretell thy fate, when, madly disobedient, thou didst spare the curst Amalekite. and on the spoil didst fly rapacious?” The prophet then predicts the death of Saul and his sons, including Jonathan, at the hands of the Philistines. A battle quickly ensues, and the report of their deaths is delivered by an Amalekite soldier who admits that he responded to Saul’s anguished plea to “finish the imperfect work” of his attempted suicide. David literally kills the messenger, because, however flawed, it was “the Lord’s Anointed” whom he killed.

The famous Dead March introduces the final Elegy, in which the bodies of Saul and Jonathan are returned from the battlefield, and each of the surviving characters and chorus express their grief. After David’s plaintive farewell to Jonathan, a brief epilog turns to the bright future of the Jewish people under the kingship of David. The final chorus exhorts him to “retrieve the Hebrew name” while “others,” presumably the Christian English audience, seek to learn from their virtues, or in the words of the chorus, “crowd to own thy righteous sway.”

The Drama

The saga appealed to the dramatist in Handel, who, by the time Saul premiered in 1738, had only two to go of the forty-two Italian operas and theatrical works in his oeuvre, both flops. English audiences had lost their appetite for the conventions of opera seria—the formalism of the da capo “exit aria,” the hierarchy of leading roles sung by Italian (and therefore papist) virtuoso castrati, the stagnant characterization of roles revealed one personality trait at a time, and extravagant stagecraft. Unfettered by those stagnant formulas, Handel turned to the dramas inherent in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), thereby appealing to popular taste, Anglican sensibilities, and a patriotic parallel by which the English audience could identify with the chosen people of Israel.  

He found a brilliant collaborator in Charles Jennens, a wealthy eccentric country squire whose libretto lacks the sentimental moralizing found in those written by clerics such as Rev. Thomas Morell. Though best known for his later libretto of Messiah, in which Jennens masterfully cut-and-pasted only the words of the King James translation of the Bible, it is in Saul that his skill in developing characters and dramatic thrust from the Biblical narrative shines through. Though his private correspondence betrays his condescension (“Mr. Handel’s head is more full of maggots than ever…”), Jennens was clearly respected by Handel, who accepted several suggested revisions, including restoring the “hallelujah” chorus to the triumphal first scene as intended rather than after the final lament. “His third maggot is a Hallelujah which he has trump’d up at the end of his oratorio…because he thought the conclusion of the oratorio not Grand enough; …but this Hallelujah, Grand as it is, comes in very nonsensically, having no manner of relation to what goes before.” 

Though the uncut score of Saul runs to 86 musical numbers (our performance is judiciously trimmed), the action is swift and concise. (The longest air, for example, is just shy of six minutes, while the arias in Handel’s opera Alcina run from six to twelve minutes each.) Connective secco recitatives (free verse sung only with continuo) are short and to the point, while recitatives accompanied by the orchestra reveal the multifaceted personalities of the characters. Though oratorios are usually described as unstaged operas, this libretto abounds with stage directions: Saul throws his spear three times, characters exit, David leaps out of a window, and David orders the Amalekite messenger to be slain mid-aria (“Impious wretch!”). Indeed, there is more action indicated in the libretto of this “unstaged” work than in most operas on London stages of the period, and contemporary companies have performed successful stagings of the work, notably at Glyndebourne in 2015.

The Music

The orchestra is one of the largest possible for the period. In addition to the “festive Baroque” orchestration of strings (with violins sometimes divided into three parts), two flutes, two oboes, two bassoons, two trumpets, and continuo—harpsichord, organ, and theorbo—Handel calls for three trombones, harp, solo organ, and “carillon,” a keyboard glockenspiel. It distressed Jennens (“a very queer instrument”) and amused others, one of whom likened it to “squirrels in a cage.” Another listener noted that Handel borrowed “a pair of the largest kettle-drums in the Tower [of London], so to be sure it will be most excessive noisy with a bad set of singers.” The latter were used in one of five instrumental “symphonies” that act as musical stage sets or scene changes. There is great attention to orchestral effects: for instance, in the final “battle symphony” Handel divides the orchestra into three ensembles: strings and continuo; oboes and bassoons; and trumpets, trombones with those Tower kettledrums. Giving the same music to each group in alternation, Handel creates spatial illusion of echoing distant camps which converge in the final climax. 

The famous Dead March has taken its place along with those by Beethoven and Chopin in public mourning, including the obsequies for George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill. Surprisingly, it is written in a very un-funereal C major and features a plaintive flute duet because in the Baroque period, the flute was an instrument associated with mourning. 

Handel crafts the solo airs (arias) in a variety of forms to maximize dramatic impact and vivid characterization. David’s modest “O King, your favours with delight I take” begins without introduction, with short phrases answered by violins. Likewise, Jonathan’s rejection of his princely status, “Birth and fortune I despise!” is a simple unison aria with strings doubling his austere vocal line. Status-conscious Merab’s rebuke of her brother, “What abject thoughts a prince can have,” though sung as an aside, is operatic with bravura display, while Michal’s modesty is reflected in her more tuneful airs.

Most forward-looking is the music given to the title role. Saul is clearly the central focus of the plot, and were he the leading man (primo uomo) in a Handel opera seria, he would have received five or more arias, each revealing a single aspect of his character. With only two-and-a-half airs, Saul’s mercurial disposition cannot confine itself in precast forms. His most revealing moments are set in five accompanied recitatives (accompagnato) such as the soliloquy which precedes his visit to the Witch of Endor (“Wretch that I am!”), more characteristic of later operas by Mozart or even Verdi.  The orchestra reveals his fluctuating state of mind from fearful hesitancy to firm resolve, using punctuating rhythms and unstable minor harmonies that end emphatically in major. Even his rage aria (“With rage I shall burst his praises to hear!”) is an outburst stripped of fulminating passagework. While his aria “A serpent in my bosom warm’d” has all the markings of a standard-issue A-B-A da capo aria—including serpentine figuration in the orchestra and modulation to a related key for what appears to be the B section, Handel thwarts our expectations by cutting it off after three bars when Saul suddenly hurls his spear at David to the accompaniment of plummeting descending scales. 

The role of the chorus is central to the plot. After all, it is the women’s chorus (“Welcome, welcome mighty King!”) who set the conflict in motion by unintentionally inciting Saul’s jealousy of David. As Israelites, the chorus frames the opening scene with regal acclamations and a recounting of David’s slaying of Goliath. As the plot unfolds, they become observers in the tradition of Greek drama, commenting on the action, both amorous (“Is there a man?”) and moralizing (“O fatal consequence of rage”). Returning to their initial role as Israelites, they lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan  (“Mourn Israel”) in one of the most profound moments in the work, and as David mourns Jonathan (“O fatal day”), they despair of their future as a nation.  

“With Saul Handel raised Old Testament oratorio to its highest point, and produced one of the supreme masterpieces of dramatic art, comparable with the Oresteia and King Lear in the grandeur of its theme and the certainty and skill of its execution.” So writes Winton Dean, foremost authority on Handel’s operas and oratorios, never hesitant to critique their shortcomings, and never more clearly on the mark.

Libretto

Saul(1744)

An Oratorio; or Sacred Drama
Words by Charles Jennens

[Sinfonia]

ACT the FIRST

SCENE 1
An Epinicion, or Song of Triumph, for the Victory over Goliath and the Philistines

Chorus
How excellent Thy name, O Lord,
In all the world is known!
Above all Heav’ns, O King ador’d,
How hast Thou set Thy glorious throne!

Air
Merab
An infant rais’d by Thy command,
To quell Thy rebel foes,
Could fierce Goliath’s dreadful hand
Superior in the fight oppose.

Chorus
Along the monster atheist strode,
With more than human pride,
And armies of the living God
Exulting in his strength defied.

Chorus
The youth inspir’d by Thee, O Lord,
With ease the boaster slew:
Our fainting courage soon restor’d,
And headlong drove that impious crew.

Chorus
How excellent Thy name, O Lord,
In all the world is known!
Above all Heavn’s, O King ador’d,
How hast thou set Thy glorious throne!
Hallelujah!

SCENE 2
Saul, Jonathan, Merab, Michal, etc. Abner introducing David

Recitative
Michal
He comes, he comes!

Air
Michal
O godlike youth, by all confess’d
Of human race the pride!
O virgin among women blest,
Whom Heav’n ordains thy bride!
But ah, how strong a bar I see
Betwixt my happiness and me!

Recitative
Abner
Behold, O king, the brave, victorious youth,
And in his hand the haughty giant’s head.
Saul
Young man, whose son art thou?

David
The son of Jesse,
Thy faithful servant, and a Bethlemite.

Saul
Return no more to Jesse; stay with me;
And as an earnest of my future favour,
Thou shalt espouse my daughter: small reward
Of such desert, since to thy arm alone
We owe our safety, peace and liberty.

Air
David
O king, your favours with delight
I take, but must refuse your praise:
For every pious Israelite
To God alone that tribute pays.
Through Him we put to flight our foes,
And in His name,
We trod them under that against us rose.

Recitative
Jonathan
Oh, early piety! Oh, modest merit!
In this embrace my heart bestows itself;
Henceforth, thou noble youth, accept my friendship,
And Jonathan and David are but one.

Air
Merab
What abject thoughts a prince can have!
In rank a prince, in mind a slave!

Recitative
Merab (aside, to Jonathan)
Yet think on whom this honour you bestow;
How poor in fortune, and in birth how low!

Air
Jonathan
Birth and fortune I despise!
From virtue let my friendship rise.
(to David)
No titles proud thy stem adorn,
Yet born of God is nobly born,
And of His gifts so rich thy store,
That Ophir to thy wealth is poor.

Recitative
Saul
Thou, Merab, first in birth, be first in honour:
Thine be the valiant youth, whose arm has sav’d
Thy country from her foes.

Merab (aside)
Oh, mean alliance!

Air
Merab
My soul rejects the thought with scorn,
That such a boy, till now unknown,
Of poor plebeian parents born,
Should mix with royal blood his own!
Though Saul’s command I can’t decline,
I must prevent his low design,
And save the honour of his line.

Air
Michal
See, with what a scornful air
She the precious gift receives!
Though e’er so noble, or so fair,
She cannot merit what he gives.

Air
Michal
Ah, lovely youth, wast thou design’d
With that proud beauty to be join’d?

[Symphony pour les Carillons]

SCENE 3
Saul, Michal, etc. Chorus of Women

Recitative
Michal
Already see the daughters of the land,
In joyful dance, with instruments of music,
Come to congratulate your victory.

Chorus
Welcome, welcome, mighty king!
Welcome all who conquest bring!
Welcome David, warlike boy,
Author of our present joy!
Saul, who hast thy thousands slain,
Welcome to thy friends again!
David his ten thousands slew,
Ten thousand praises are his due!

Accompagnato
Saul
What do I hear? Am I then sunk so low,
To have this upstart boy preferr’d before me?

Chorus
David his ten thousands slew,
Ten thousand praises are his due!

Accompagnato
Saul
To him ten thousands! and to me but thousands?
What can they give him more, except the kingdom?

Air
Saul
With rage I shall burst his praises to hear!
Oh, how I both hate the stripling, and fear!
What mortal a rival in glory can bear?

Exit.

SCENE 4
Jonathan, Michal

Recitative
Jonathan
Imprudent women! Your ill-tim’d comparisons,
I fear, have injur’d him you meant to honour.
Saul’s furious look, as he departed hence,
Too plainly shew’d the tempest of his soul.


Michal (to David)
‘Tis but his old disease, which thou canst cure:
Oh, take thy harp, and as thou oft hast done,
From the king’s breast expel the raging fiend,
And sooth his tortur’d soul with sounds divine.

Exit David.

Air
Michal
Fell rage and black despair possess’d
With horrid sway the monarch’s breast;
When David with celestial fire
Struck the sweet persuasive lyre:
Soft gliding down his ravish’d ears,
The healing sounds dispel his cares;
Despair and rage at once are gone,
And peace and hope resume the throne.

SCENE 5
Saul, David, Jonathan, Merab, Abner

Recitative
Abner
Racked with infernal pains, ev’n now the king
Comes forth, and mutters horrid words, which hell,
No human tongue, has taught him.

Air
David
O Lord, whose mercies numberless
O’er all thy works prevail:
Though daily man Thy law transgress,
Thy patience cannot fail.
If yet his sin be not too great,
The busy fiend control;
Yet longer for repentance wait,
And heal his wounded soul.

Recitative
Jonathan
‘Tis all in vain; his fury still continues:
With wild distraction on my friend he stares,
Stamps on the ground, and seems intent on mischief.

Air
Saul
A serpent, in my bosom warm’d,
Would sting me to the heart:
But of his venom soon disarm’d,
Himself shall feel the smart.
Ambitious boy! Now learn what danger
It is to rouse a monarch’s anger!

He throws his javelin. Exit David.

Recitative
Saul
Has he escap’d my rage?
I charge thee, Jonathan, upon thy duty,
And all, on your allegiance, to destroy
This bold, aspiring youth; for while he lives,
I am not safe. Reply not, but obey.

Air
Merab
Capricious man, in humour lost,
By ev’ry wind of passion toss’d!
Now sets his vassal on the throne,
Then low as earth he casts him down!
His temper knows no middle state,
Extreme alike in love or hate.

SCENE 6
Jonathan

Accompagnato
Jonathan
O filial piety! O sacred friendship!
How shall I reconcile you? Cruel father!
Your just commands I always have obey’d:
But to destroy my friend, the brave, the virtuous,
The godlike David, Israel’s defender,
And terror of her foes! To disobey you —
What shall I call it? ‘Tis an act of duty
To God, to David — nay, indeed, to you.

Air
Jonathan
No, cruel father, no!
Your hard commands I can’t obey.
Shall I with sacrilegious blow
Take pious David’s life away?
No, cruel father, no!
No, with my life I must defend
Against the world my best, my dearest friend.

Chorus
Preserve him for the glory of Thy name,
Thy people’s safety, and the heathen’s shame.

ACT the SECOND

SCENE 1

Chorus
Envy, eldest born of hell!
Cease in human breasts to dwell.
Ever at all good repining,
Still the happy undermining!
God and man by thee infested,
Thou by God and man detested,
Most thyself thou dost torment,
At once the crime and punishment!
Hide thee in the blackest night:
Virtue sickens at thy sight!

SCENE 3
Saul and Jonathan

Recitative
Saul
Hast thou obey’d my orders, and destoy’d
My mortal enemy, the son of Jesse?


Jonathan
Alas, my father! He your enemy?
Say, rather, he has done important service
To you, and to the nation; hazarded
His life for both, and slain our giant foe,
Whose presence made the boldest of us tremble.

Air
Jonathan
Sin not, O king, against the youth,
Who ne’er offended you:
Think, to his loyalty and truth,
What great rewards are due!
Think with what joy this godlike man
You saw, that glorious day!
Think, and with ruin, if you can,
Such services repay.

Air
Saul
As great Jehovah lives, I swear,
The youth shall not be slain:
Bid him return, and void of fear
Adorn our court again.

Air
Jonathan
From cities storm’d, and battles won,
What glory can accrue?
By this the hero best is known,
He can himself subdue.
Wisest and greatest of his kind,
Who can in reason’s fetters bind
The madness of his angry mind!

SCENE 4
Saul, Jonathan, David

Recitative
Jonathan
Appear, my friend.

Enter David.

Saul
No more imagine danger:
Be first in our esteem; with wonted valour
Repel the insults of the Philistines:
And as a proof of my sincerity,
(Oh, hardness to dissemble!) instantly
Espouse my daughter Michal.

Air
David
Your words, O king, my loyal heart
With double ardour fire:
If God his usual aid impart,
Your foes shall feel what you inspire.
In all the dangers of the field,
The great Jehovah is my shield.


Exeunt David and Jonathan.

Recitative
Saul
Yes, he shall wed my daughter! But how long
Shall he enjoy her? He shall lead my armies!
But have the Philistines no darts, no swords,
To pierce the heart of David? Yes, this once
To them I leave him; they shall do me right!

SCENE 5
David and Michal

Recitative
Michal
A father’s will has authorized my love:
No longer, Michal, then attempt to hide
The secret of my soul. I love thee, David,
And long have lov’d. Thy virtue was the cause;
And that be my defence.

Duet
Michal
O fairest of ten thousand fair,
Yet for thy virtue more admir’d!
Thy words and actions all declare
The wisdom by thy God inspir’d.
David
O lovely maid! Thy form beheld,
Above all beauty charms our eyes:
Yet still within thy form conceal’d,
Thy mind, a greater beauty, lies.

Both
How well in thee does Heav’n at last
Compensate all my sorrows past.

Exeunt.

Chorus
Is there a man, who all his ways,
Directs, his God alone to please?
In vain his foes against him move:
Superior pow’r their hate disarms;
He makes them yield to virtue’s charms,
And melts their fury down to love.

[Symphony]

SCENE 6
David and Michal

Recitative
David
Thy father is as cruel, and as false,
As thou art kind and true. When I approach’d him,
New from the slaughter of his enemies,
His eyes with fury flam’d, his arms he rais’d,
With rage grown stronger; by my guiltless head
The javelin whizzing flew, and in the wall
Mock’d once again his impotence of malice.

Duet
David
At persecution I can laugh;
No fear my soul can move,
In God’s protection safe,
And blest in Michal’s love.


Michal
Ah, dearest youth, for thee I fear!
Fly, begone, for death is near!

David
Fear not, lovely fair, for me:
Death, where thou art, cannot be;
Smile, and danger is no more.

Michal
Fly, or death is at the door!
See, the murd’rous band comes on!
Stay no longer, fly, begone!

SCENE 7
Michal and Doeg

Recitative
Michal
Whom dost thou seek? And who hast sent thee hither?

Doeg
I seek for David, and am sent by Saul.
Thy errand?

Doeg
‘Tis a summons to the Court.

Michal
Say he is sick.

Doeg
In sickness or in health,
Alive or dead, he must be brought to Saul;
Show me his chamber.<

David’s bed discovered with an image in it.

Do you mock the king?
This disappointment will enrage him more:
Then tremble for th’event.

Exit Doeg.

Air
Michal
No, no, let the guilty tremble
At ev’ry thought of danger near.
Though numbers, armed with death, assemble,
My innocence disdains to fear.
Though great their power as their spite,
Undaunted still remains my soul;
For greater is Jehovah’s might,
And will their lawless force restrain.

SCENE 8
Merab

Recitative
Merab
Mean as he was, he is my brother now,
My sister’s husband; and to speak the truth,
Has qualities which justice bids me love,
And pity his distress. My father’s cruelty
Strikes me with horror! At th’approaching feast
I fear some dire event, unless my brother,
His friend, the faithful Jonathan, avert
Th’impending ruin. I know he’ll do his best.

Air
Merab
Author of peace, who canst control
Ev’ry passion of the soul;
To whose good spirit alone we owe
Words that sweet as honey flow:
With thy dear influence his tongue be fill’d,
And cruel wrath to soft persuasion yield.

SCENE 9
Saul at the Feast of the New Moon

[Symphony]

Accompagnato
Saul
The time at length is come when I shall take
My full revenge on Jesse’s son.
No longer shall the stripling make
His sov’reign totter on the throne.
He dies — this blaster of my fame,
Bane of my peace, and author of my shame!

SCENE 10
Saul, Jonathan, etc.

Recitative
Saul
Where is the son of Jesse? Comes he not
To grace our feast?
Jonathan
He earnestly ask’d leave
To go to Bethlem, where his father’s house,
At solemn rites of annual sacrifice,
Requir’d his presence.

Saul
O perverse, rebellious!
Thinkst thou I do not know that thou hast chose
The son of Jesse to thy own confusion?
The world will say thou art no son of mine,
Who thus canst love the man I hate; the man
Who, if he lives, will rob thee of thy crown:
Send, fetch him thither; for the wretch must die.

Jonathan
What has he done? And wherefore must he die?

Saul
Darest thou oppose my will? Die then thyself!

He throws the javelin. Exit Jonathan, then Saul.

Chorus
Oh, fatal consequence
Of rage, by reason uncontroll’d!
With every law he can dispense;
No ties the furious monster hold:
From crime to crime he blindly goes,
Nor end, but with his own destruction knows.

ACT the THIRD

SCENE 1
Saul disguis’d as Endor

Accompagnato
Saul
Wretch that I am, of my own ruin author!
Where are my old supports? The valiant youth,
Whose very name was terror to my foes,
My rage has drove away. Of God forsaken,
In vain I ask his counsel. He vouchsafes
No answer to the sons of disobedience!
Even my own courage fails me! Can it be?
Is Saul become a coward? I’ll not believe it!
If Heav’n denies thee aid, seek it from hell!

Accompagnato
Saul
‘Tis said, here lives a woman, close familiar
With th’enemy of mankind: her I’ll consult,
And know the worst. Her art is death by law;
And while I minded law, sure death attended
Such horrid practises. Yet, oh hard fate,
Myself am now reduc’d to ask the counsel
Of those I once abhorr’d!

SCENE 2
Saul and the Witch of Endor

Recitative
Witch
With me what would’st thou?

Saul
I would, that by thy art thou bring me up
The man whom I shall name.

Witch
Alas! Thou know’st
How Saul has cut off those who use this art.
Would’st thou ensnare me?

Saul
As Jehovah lives,
On this account no mischief shall befall thee.

Witch
Whom shall I bring up to thee?

Saul
Bring up Samuel.

Air
Witch
Infernal spirits, by whose pow’r
Departed ghosts in living forms appear,
Add horror to the midnight hour,
And chill the boldest hearts with fear:
To this stranger’s wond’ring eyes
Let the prophet Samuel rise!

SCENE 3
Apparition of Samuel and Saul

Accompagnato
Samuel
Why hast thou forc’d me from the realms of peace
Back to this world of woe?

Saul
O holy Prophet!
Refuse me not thy aid in this distress.
The num’rous foe stands ready for the battle:
God has forsaken me: no more he answers
By prophets or by dreams: no hope remains,
Unless I learn from thee from course to take.

Samuel
Hath God forsaken thee? And dost thou ask
My counsel? Did I not foretell thy fate,
When, madly disobedient, thou didst spare
The curst Amalekite, and on the spoil
Didst fly rapacious? Therefore God this day
Hath verified my words in thy destruction,
Hath rent the kingdom from thee, and bestow’d it
On David, whom thou hatest for his virtue.
Thou and thy sons shall be with me tomorrow,
And Israel by Philistine arms shall fall.
The Lord hath said it: He will make it good.

[Symphony]

SCENE 4
David and an Amalekite

Recitative
David
Whence comest thou?
Amalekite
Out of the camp of Israel.

David
Thou canst inform me then. How went the battle?

Amalekite
The people, put to flight, in numbers fell,
And Saul, and Jonathan his son, are dead.

David
Alas, my brother! But how knowest thou
That they are dead?

Amalekite
Upon Mount Gilboa
I met with Saul, just fall’n upon his spear;
Swiftly the foe pursu’d; he cried to me,
Begg’d me to finish his imperfect work,
And end a life of pain and ignominy.
I knew he could not live, therefore slew him;
Took from his head the crown, and from his arms
The bracelets, and have brought them to my lord.

David
Whence art thou?

Amalekite
Of the race of Amalek.

Air
David
Impious wretch, of race accurst!
And of all that race the worst!
How hast thou dar’d to lift thy sword
Again th’anointed of the Lord?
(To one of his attendants, who kills the Amalekite.)
Fall on him, smite him, let him die!
On thy own head thy blood will lie;
Since thy own mouth has testified,
By thee the Lord’s anointed died.

SCENE 5
Elegy on the Death of Saul and Jonathan

[March]

Chorus
Mourn, Israel, mourn thy beauty lost,
Thy choicest youth on Gilboa slain!
How have thy fairest hopes been cross’d!
What heaps of mighty warriors strew the plain!

Air
Jonathan
Oh, let it not in Gath be heard,
The news in Askelon let none proclaim;
Lest we, whom once so much they fear’d,
Be by their women now despis’d,
And lest the daughters of th’uncircumcis’d
Rejoice and triumph in our shame.

Air
Merab
From this unhappy day
No more, ye Gilboan hills, on you
Descend refreshing rains or kindly dew,
Which erst your heads with plenty crown’d;
Since there the shield of Saul, in arms renown’d,
Was vilely cast away.

Air
David
Brave Jonathan his bow never drew,
But wing’d with death his arrow flew,
And drank the blood of slaughter’d foes.
Nor drew great Saul his sword in vain;
It reek’d, where’er he dealt his blows,
With entrails of the mighty slain.

Chorus
Eagles were not so swift as they,
Nor lions with so strong a grasp
Held fast and tore the prey.

Air
Michal
In sweetest harmony they liv’d,
Nor death their union could divide.
The pious son ne’er left the father’s side,
But him defending bravely died:
A loss too great to be surviv’d!
For Saul, ye maids of Israel, moan,
To whose indulgent care
You owe the scarlet and the gold you wear,
And all the pomp in which your beauty long has shone.

Solo and Chorus
Israelites
O fatal day! How low the mighty lie!
David and Israelites
O Jonathan! How nobly didst thou die,
For thy king and people slain.

David
For thee, my brother Jonathan,
How great is my distress!
What language can my grief express?
Great was the pleasure I enjoy’d in thee,
And more than woman’s love thy wondrous love to me!

David and Israelites
O fatal day! How low the mighty lie!
Where, Israel, is thy glory fled?
Spoil’d of thy arms, and sunk in infamy,
How canst thou raise again thy drooping head!

Recitative
High Priest
Ye men of Judah, weep no more!
Let gladness reign in all our host;
For pious David will restore
What Saul by disobedience lost.
The Lord of hosts is David’s friend,
And conquest will his arms attend.

Chorus
Gird on thy sword, thou man of might,
Pursue thy wonted fame:
Go on, be prosperous in fight,
Retrieve the Hebrew name!
Thy strong right hand, with terror armed,
Shall thy obdurate foes dismay;
While others, by thy virtue charm’d,
Shall crowd to own thy righteous sway.

About the Artists

Sherezade Panthaki – Soprano

Soprano Sherezade Panthaki’s international success has been fueled by superbly honed musicianship; “shimmering sensitivity” (Cleveland Plain Dealer); a “radiant” voice (The Washington Post); and vividly passionate interpretations, “mining deep emotion from the subtle shaping of the lines” (The New York Times). An acknowledged star in the early-music field, Ms. Panthaki has developed ongoing collaborations with many of the world’s leading interpreters including Nicholas McGegan, Mark Morris, Simon Carrington, Matthew Halls, and Masaaki Suzuki, with whom she made her New York Philharmonic debut in a program of Bach and Mendelssohn. After Panthaki’s recent performance with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, she was described as “a phenomenon” and praised for the “multifold splendor of her singing” by The San Francisco Chronicle. A 2015 performance with PBO was named one of the “Top 10 Classical Music Events of 2015.”

Ms. Panthaki’s 2019/20 orchestral season includes returns to both Minnesota Orchestra (Messiah) and Winter Park Bach Festival (Brahms Requiem) and performances with Houston Symphony (Messiah), Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, St. Thomas Church in New York, and Santa Fe Pro Musica (Telemann’s Passion Cantata). This season she also returns rejoins the viol consort Parthenia for an “Elizabethan Christmas” program and returns to Boston Early Music Festival for their overseas trip to Bremen, performing the role of Ellenia in Graupner’s Antiochus und Stratonica. In recital Ms. Panthaki will be featured at Caramoor Music Festival in “Love and Revenge: The Baroque Diva” with Helicon Ensemble.

Past performances of note include Handel’s Messiah with Bach Collegium Japan, the National Symphony Orchestra, Boston Baroque, the Kansas City Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic, Nashville and San Antonio Symphonies; performances with the Milwaukee, Colorado, and Pasadena Symphonies; Vivaldi’s Gloria with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the St. Louis Symphony; Handel’s Saul with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in Toronto; Handel’s La Resurrezione at the Morgan Library, Bach cantatas and oratorios and works by Handel and Purcell with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Music of the Baroque; Oregon Bach Festival; Berkeley Early Music Festival; the role of Belinda in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Handel’s L’Allegro and the title role of Galatea in the premiere performances of Acis and Galatea with the Mark Morris Dance Group; Bach’s St. Matthew and St. John Passions with the late John Scott and the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys; Handel’s Solomon with the Radio Kamer Filharmonie (Holland); Handel at Carnegie Hall with William Christie and the Yale Philharmonia; and Christmas Oratorio with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Panthaki was also featured in multiple concerts at Trinity Wall Street’s Bach at One “Cantatas” series in New York City.

With her “fresh, youthful sound … with a welcome hint of steel” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Ms. Panthaki’s repertoire extends well beyond the music of the Renaissance and Baroque. Recent engagements have included Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Houston Symphony; Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Haydn’s L’isola disabitata, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the American Classical Orchestra; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Orlando Philharmonic; Brahms’ Requiem and John Tavener’s The Last Discourse with Orchestra of St. Luke’s and St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys; Mozart’s Requiem with Music of the Baroque; Mozart’s Exsultate jubilate and Requiem with the Washington Bach Consort; Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise and Strauss lieder at the Bari International Music Festival, Britten’s War Requiem with the Louisville Choral Arts Society, as well as solos in Stravinsky’s Les Noces, and Poulenc’s Stabat Mater and Gloria.

As a frequent guest with the Boston-based La Donna Musicale, Ms. Panthaki has championed works by women composers of the Baroque on recording and in live performance at the Utrecht Early Music Festival (Holland), the Murten Classics Festival (Switzerland), and the Banco de La Republica series (Colombia). Ms. Panthaki is a founding member of the early music vocal quartet Gravitación, with which she has recorded medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque works.

Born and raised in India, Ms. Panthaki began her musical education at an early age. Following intensive study and earning top distinction as a young pianist, she turned to singing and found a more personal and expressive means to connect with audiences. She holds a Masters degree in Voice Performance from the University of Illinois, and an Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. She is the winner of multiple awards at Yale University, including the prestigious Phyllis Curtin Career Entry Prize. Ms. Panthaki has served as Vocal Coach for the Yale Baroque Opera Project, and currently teaches voice lessons to scholarship winners of the top undergraduate and graduate choral ensembles at Yale University.

Yulia Van Doren – Soprano

Recognized by Opera as “A star-to-be” following her Lincoln Center debut, young Russian-American soprano Yulia Van Doren’s debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was acclaimed as a “revelation… a ravishing lyric voice and an ease with vocal ornamentation that turned her into an enchanted songbird” (Toronto Star). For her last minute step-in with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Plain Dealer praised Van Doren as an artist of “melting poignancy” and added, “To Van Doren, one could easily have listened for hours.”

Highlighting Ms. Van Doren’s 2019/20 season are returns to Music of the Baroque (Bach’s B Minor Mass), Boston Baroque (Vivaldi’s Nula in Mundo Pax), Charlotte and Phoenix Symphonies (Messiah), St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (Messiah), and American Bach Soloists (Handel and Bach). She will make her debut with the Phoenix Symphony this season performing Messiah.

A dedicated interpreter of repertoire off the beaten path, career highlights include creating the lead female role in the world premiere of Shostakovich’s Orango with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, directed by Peter Sellars and released on Deutsche Grammophon; two Grammy-nominated opera recordings with the Boston Early Music Festival; the modern revival of Monsigny’s opera Le roi et le fermier at Opera de Versailles, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center (recorded for Naxos); a tour of Handel’s Orlando with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra to the Mostly Mozart, Ravinia and Tanglewood festivals; a leading role in Scarlatti’s Tigrane at Opera de Nice; nationally-televised performances at the Cartagena International Music Festival with soprano Dawn Upshaw, an important mentor; and creating a leading role in the world premiere staging of Lera Auerbach’s The Blind, an a cappella opera, in the Lincoln Center Festival. Especially recognized for her work in the baroque repertoire, Ms. Van Doren has performed with the majority of the North American Baroque festivals and orchestras, and has the distinction of being the only singer awarded a top prize in all four US Bach vocal competitions.

Other recent debuts and engagements include performances with the San Francisco, Toronto, Houston, Cincinnati, St. Louis, National, Seattle NashvilleColorado, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee Symphonies; the Cleveland Orchestra; the Los Angeles Master Chorale; Washington D.C.’s Folger Consort; and two trips to the Netherlands for performances with the Radio Kamer Filharmonie.

Born in Moscow, Yulia Van Doren was raised in the United States in a music-filled household in which she and her seven younger siblings were taught by her Russian mezzo-soprano mother and American jazz pianist father. Ms. Van Doren is honored to be an Astral Artist, a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow, and as the recipient of a Beebe Grant she spent the 2011-2012 season based in Paris.

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen – Countertenor

Acclaimed as a “young star” and “complete artist” by the New York Times and “extravagantly gifted… poised to redefine what’s possible for singers of this distinctive voice type” by the San Francisco Chronicle, American countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has quickly been identified as one of opera’s most promising rising stars. Aryeh’s first commercial recording project – the world premiere recording of Kenneth Fuchs’ Poems of Life with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by JoAnn Falletta – recently won a 2019 GRAMMY® Award in the Best Classical Compendium category, which honors albums with multiple soloists and multiple works. Winner of a 2019 Sullivan Foundation Award, and Third Prize Winner in the 2019 edition of Placido Domingo’s Operalia, he was also First Prize Winner and Audience Choice Award recipient at the 2018 Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition. In his breakout 2016-2017 season, he was named Grand Finals Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and was the recipient of a Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. He was First Prize winner of the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition, and winner of the Irvin Scherzer Award from the George London Foundation.

In the 2019-20 season, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen returns to Houston Grand Opera as David in Barrie Kosky’s heralded production of Handel’s Saul. Additional highlights of the season include the roles of Tamerlano in Vivaldi’s Bajazet with Portland Opera and Goffredo in a new production of Handel’s Rinaldo at the Glimmerglass Festival. On the concert stage, he makes his French debut at the Chateau de Versailles in works by Pergolesi and Vivaldi, and he is heard in Handel’s Messiah with the San Francisco Symphony and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with the Buffalo Philharmonic, and in the thematic programs ‘Orphean Enchantments’ with American Bach Soloists and ‘Bach Goes Greek’ with Ars Lyrica Houston.

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen was a member of San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellowship program for 2018-19, and he made his San Francisco Opera debut as Medoro in Handel’s Orlando under the baton of Maestro Christopher Moulds. Performances of the season also included the role of David in Handel’s Saul with Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Ottone in Handel’s Agrippina in staged performances with Ars Lyrica Houston conducted by Matthew Dirst and directed by Tara Faircloth, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Matthew Dirst and the Portland Baroque Orchestra, the world premiere of a new ballet by Yuri Possokhov with the San Francisco Ballet, and a gala concert with American Bach Soloists, led by Maestro Jeffrey Thomas, with whom he then recorded his first solo album – featuring works by Handel, Gluck, and Vivaldi.

The New York City native became the first countertenor in the history of the Houston Grand Opera Studio during the 2017-18 season.  His performances for the company included the roles of Nireno in Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Second Maid in Strauss’ Elektra, both under the baton of Music Director Patrick Summers.  He made his Cincinnati Opera debut as Ottone in a new production by Zack Winokur of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, conducted by Gary Thor Wedow, and appeared in concert programs of Bach and Handel with the American Bach Soloists and with Ars Lyrica Houston. 

Aaron Sheehan – Tenor

American Tenor Aaron Sheehan, recognized internationally as a leading interpreter of baroque repertoire, is equally at home on the concert platform and the opera stage. He sang the title role in Boston Early Music Festival’s recording of Charpentier’s La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers which won Best Opera Recording at the 2015 GRAMMY AWARDS.

Aaron Sheehan made his professional operatic début with Boston Early Music Festival (BEMF) as Ivan, in the world premiere staging of Mattheson’s Boris Gudenow, a role for which Opera News praised his voice as “sinous and supple”. Further roles with BEMF have included L’ Amour and Apollon in Lully’s Psyché, Actéon in Charpentier’s Actéon, Orfeo, Eurimaco Il ritorno d’Ullise in patria, Liberto/Soldado L’incoronazione di Poppea and Acis Acis and Galatea. He also performed leading roles in operas by Cavalli, Handel, Vaughan Williams, Weill, and Satie. Aaron Sheehan’s voice has been described by the Boston Globe as “superb: his tone classy, clear, and refined, encompassing fluid lyricism and ringin force” and the Washington Post praised his “Polished, lovely tone.” Engagements have taken him to many major venues including the Tanglewood Festival, Lincoln Center, Concert Gebauw, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Gran Teatro Nacional del Perú, Beethoven Festival Warsaw, Boston Symphony Hall, Musikfestspiele Postdam Sanssouci, Royal Opera at Versailles, Washington National Cathedral, and the Early Music festivals of Boston, San Francisco, Vancouver, Houston, Tucson, and Washington DC, as well as the Regensburg Tage Alter Musik.

Aaron Sheehan also enjoys a reputation as a first-rate interpreter of the oratorios and cantatas of Bach and Handel and the oratorios and masses of Mozzart. He has performed concerts with Seattle Symphony, American Bach Soloists, Handel and Haydn Society, Boston Early Music Festival, Boston Baroque, Tafelmusik, Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional del Perú, Philharmonia Baroque, North Carolina Symphony, New York Collegium, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony, Musica Angelica, Charleston Bach Festival, Baltimore Handel Choir, Les Voix Baroque, Pacific Chorale, Tempesta di Mare, Aston Magna Festival, Bach Collegium San Diego, Pacific Music Works, Boston Museum Trio, Tragicomedia, and Concerto Palatino.

Recent performances have included, Orfeo Le Carnaval de Venise with Boston Early Music Festival, Apollon and Trajan in Rameau’s Le Temple de la Glorie with Philharmonia Baroque, Eumete Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria with Opera Atelier, Dom Pedro and Ottavio in Campra’s L’Europe galante for the Centre de Music Baroque de Versailles at the Musikfestspiele, The Orpheus Project (a dance programme centring on works featuring the Orfeo myth) with New Zealand Dance Company, the title role in Gluck’s Orphée with Pacific Music Works, Messiah with Seattle Symphony and Boston Baroque, Alexander’s Feast and Messiah with American Bach Soloists, and performances of Bach Easter Oratorio, Charpentier La Fête de Ruel, Handel Messiah, Monteverdi Vespers and Rameau Cantatas.

Aaron Sheehan’s forthcoming performances include Orlando Orlando generoso with Boston Early Music Festival, Glaucus Scylla et Glaucus with Philharmonia Baroque, Demetrius Antiochus und Stratonica with Boston Early Music Festival, San Giovanni in Scarlatti’s Oratorio a Quattro Voci with Berlin State Opera, and further performances of St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, and Messiah.
A native of Minnesota, Aaron Sheehan holds a BA from Luther College and a MM in Early Voice performance from Indiana University.

Daniel Okulitch – Bass-Baritone

Lauded as “flat out brilliant” by Opera News, Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch is a leading interpreter of Mozart roles, most notably Don Giovanni, Almaviva, and Figaro, which he has performed at New York City Opera, Teatro Colón, Los Angeles Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Moscow Philharmonic, Opera Warsaw, Vancouver Opera, Dallas Opera, New Orleans Opera, Portland Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Hawaii Opera, Manitoba Opera, and Lyric Opera Kansas City. Okulitch has also equally excelled in creating leading roles in contemporary opera, most notably the roles of Ennis del Mar in Charles Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain at Teatro Real in Madrid and New York City Opera; Mark Rutland in Nico Muhly’s Marnie at English National Opera; Seth Brundle in Howard Shore’s The Fly at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and at Los Angeles Opera; Willy Wonka in Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket at Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Atlanta Opera; LBJ in JFK with Fort Worth Opera and Opera de Montreal; and Herman Broder in Ben Moore’s Enemies, A Love Story at Palm Beach Opera.

Engagements this season include performances in the title role in Don Giovanni at Michigan Opera Theater, the Protector in George Benjamin’s Written On Skin at Opera de Montréal, and the role of The Master in the World Premiere of Omar with the Spoleto Festival, by Grammy Award winner Rhiannon Ghiddens and Micheal Abels.

Okulitch’s career first garnered national attention in the role of Schaunard in the original cast of Baz Luhrmann’s Tony Award-winning Broadway production of La bohème. Other career highlights include his Teatro alla Scala debut as Theseus in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; his Washington National Opera debut in the role of Swallow in Peter Grimes which he also performed at La Scala; performances as General Groves in a new production of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic at Santa Fe Opera; Creonte in Médée with Opera Genève; his return to Vancouver Opera as Joseph De Rocher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking; and his role debut as Leporello in Don Giovanni at Opéra de Montréal.

Other recent engagements have included the title role in Handel’s Saul with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the title role in Don Giovanni with Manitoba Opera, his debut with the San Diego Symphony as baritone soloist in Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, Dead Man Walking (Joseph de Rocher) at Calgary Opera and Fort Worth Opera, the Canadian premiere of Joey Talbot’s Everest (Beck Weathers), Kevin Puts’ Silent Night with Opéra de Montréal (Lieutenant Horstmayer), Menotti’s The Last Savage (Abdul) with Santa Fe Opera, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah (Olin Blitch) with Boheme Opera, and Mark Adamo’s Little Women (Frederich Bhaer) with Fort Worth Opera and Calgary Opera. In concert, he has been heard with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago’s Grant Park Festival, Portland Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and MasterVoices in works ranging from Beethoven’s 9th to Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and Bach’s St. John’s Passion.

Okulitch can be heard on the original cast recording of Baz Luhrmann’s production of La bohème, Chausson’s Le Roi Arthus with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Pasatieri’s Frau Margot, and David DiChiera’s Cyrano de Bergerac. His first solo recording, The New American Art Song, featuring the songs of Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, Lowell Liebermann and Glen Roven, was released on GPR Records in March of 2011 and is available online at GPR Records and Amazon. He was praised by Gramophone for his “luxuriantly rich and well controlled” voice.

Okulitch is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including first prize from the George London Foundation, the Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation, and the Sullivan Foundation, and second prize from the Licia Albanese / Puccini Foundation Competition. He was a previous regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Grand Council Auditions and additionally has received grants from the Singers Development Fund and from the Canada Council for Professional Musicians, as well as received the Andrew White Memorial Award and a Corbett Award. Daniel Okulitch received an artist diploma in opera from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and received his Bachelors and Masters of Arts degrees in voice and opera from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Christian Pursell – Bass-Baritone

Bass-baritone Christian Pursell’s 2019/20 highlights include Escamillo in Carmen at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Houston Grand Opera, Handel’s Messiah with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and a return to San Francisco Opera as Lieutenant Ratcliffe in Billy Budd.

Mr. Pursell’s 2018/19 season saw debuts at San Francisco Opera as Walter Raleigh in Roberto Devereux, and at Walt Disney Concert Hall as Samuel in Handel’s Saul with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

His 2017 engagements included debuts at Wiener Staatsoper as Second Englishman in Prokofiev’s The Gambler, Houston Grand Opera as Tom in Laura Kaminsky’s Some Light Emerges, and a critically acclaimed performance of Dandini in La Cenerentola with the Merola Opera Program.

As an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera, Mr. Pursell’s performance credits include the Jailer in Tosca, Count Lamoral in Arabella under the baton of Marc Albrecht, and an Angel in It’s a Wonderful Life conducted by Patrick Summers. Previous roles performed include Marcello in La Bohème, Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore, Pandolfe in Cendrillon, Harašta in The Cunning Little Vixen, and Liberto/Littore in L’Incoronazione di Poppea.

As a concert soloist, Mr. Pursell has performed Britten’s War Requiem, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Haydn’s The Creation, Faure’s Requiem, Pärt’s Passio, and Strauss’ Salome. His first commercial recording, the world premiere of Gregory Spears’ Fellow Travelers with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was released in 2017.

A 2019 Igor Gorin Memorial Award recipient and national semi-finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (2016), Mr. Pursell is a Richard F. Gold Career Grant recipient (2018), winner of the Partners for the Arts competition (2018), second award winner of the Jensen Foundation competition (2017), winner of the Theodor Uppman Award from the Sullivan Foundation (2017), and recipient of a Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation (2017).

A native of Santa Cruz, California, Mr. Pursell is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and received his Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

The Players and Their Instruments

Philharmonia’s musicians perform on historically accurate instruments.  Below each player’s name is information about his or her instrument’s maker and origin.

VIOLIN

Elizabeth Blumenstock, concertmaster
Andrea Guarneri, Cremona, 1660; on loan from Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra Period Instrument Trust
Egon & Joan von Kaschnitz Concertmaster Chair

Jolianne von Einem 
Rowland Ross, Guildford, England, 1979; after A. Stradivari

Lisa Grodin 
Paulo Antonio Testore, Contrada, Larga di Milano, Italy, 1736

Katherine Kyme
Carlo Antonio Testore, Milan, Italy, 1720

Tyler Lewis
Anonymous, Italy, c. 1800

Anthony Martin
Thomas Oliver Croen, Walnut Creek, California, 2005; after F. Gobetti, Venice, Italy, 1717

Carla Moore
Johann Georg Thir, Vienna, Austria, 1754

Maxine Nemerovski
David Tecchler, Rome, Italy, 1733

Sandra Schwarz
Anonymous, School of Cremona, 1745

Noah Strick
Celia Bridges, Cologne, Germany, 1988

Anna Washburn
Anonymous, Tyrol, Italy, c. 1760

Lisa Weiss
Anonymous; after Testore

VIOLA

Maria Ionia Caswell *
Anonymous, Mittenwald, Germany, c. 1800

Ellie Nishi
Anonymous, Germany, 18th Century

David Sego
Colin Nicholls, London, England, 1980; after Amati

Aaron Westman
Francis Beaulieu, Montreal, Canada, 2012; after Bros. Amati, Cremona, ca. 1620

VIOLONCELLO

Phoebe Carrai bc
Anonymous, Italy, c. 1690

Paul Hale
Dominik Zuchowicz, Ottawa, Canada, 1997; after Montagnana
Osher Cello Chair Endowment

Robert Howard
Anonymous, Venice, Italy, 1750
Zheng Cao Memorial Cello Chair

William Skeen
Anonymous, Northern Italy, ca. 1680

DOUBLE BASS

Kristin Zoernig bc
Joseph Wrent, Rotterdam, Holland, 1648

Michael Minor
Anonymous, Bohemia, 1890

FLUTE

Janet See *
Martin Wenner, Singen, Germany, 2014; after Carlo Palanca, Turin, Italy, c.1740

Mindy Rosenfeld
Martin Wenner, Singen, Germany, 2011; after Carlo Palanca, Turin, Italy, c.1750

OBOE

Gonzalo Ruiz *
Joel Robinson, New York, 1990; after Saxon models, c. 1720
Principal Oboe Chair in Memory of Clare Frieman Kivelson and Irene Valente Angstadt

Marc Schachman
H.A. Vas Dias, Decatur, Georgia, 2001; after T. Stanesby, England, c. 1710

BASSOON

Danny Bond *
Peter de Koningh, Hall, Holland, 1978; after Prudent, Paris, France, c. 1760

Kate van Orden
Peter de Koningh, Hall, Holland, 1978; after Prudent, Paris, France, c. 1760

TRUMPET

John Thiessen *
Rainer Egger, Basel, Switzerland, 2003; after Ehe, 1746

Fred Holmgren
Fred Holmgren, Massachusetts, 2005; after Johann Leonhard Ehe III

TROMBONE

Greg Ingles *
Adolf Egger, Basel, Switzerland, 2001; after Johann Joseph Schmied

Erik Schmalz
Ewald Meinl, Geretsried, Germany, 1999; bass sackbut after Oller 1630

Mack Ramsey
Ewald Meinl, Geretsried, Germany, 2005; after late 18th century originals

TIMPANI

Allen Biggs *
England, c. 1847

THEORBO

David Tayler bc 
Andreas von Holst, Munich, Germany, 2004; after Magno Tieffenbrucker, Venice, Italy, 1610

HARPSICHORD

Hanneke van Proosdij bc
John Phillips, Berkeley, 2010; after Johann Heinrich Gräbner, Dresden, 1722
Generously lent by Peter & Cynthia Hibbard

ORGAN

Jory Vinikour bc
Gerrit C. Klop, Holland, 1990

KEYBOARD GLOCKENSPIEL

Jory Vinikour
Yamaha, Japan

* Principal
† Principal 2nd Violin
bc Continuo