Ars Lyrica Houston, Handel, Acis and Galatea, The Hobby Center
Grammy-nominated early music ensemble Ars Lyrica Houston presents a staged version of G.F. Handel's pastoral masterpiece Acis and Galatea on March 10th at The Hobby Center, with additional performances in Austin, and Bryan, Texas.
This new production of Handel's pastoral masterpiece Acis and Galatea, is directed by Tara Faircloth and conducted from the harpsichord by Ars Lyrica Artistic Director Matthew Dirst, and features a vibrant cast: soprano Blair Doerge, countertenor Ryland Angel, tenor Derek Chester, baritone Michael Kelly, and bass-baritone Timothy Jones.
Acis and Galatea tells the story of two young lovers whose lives are forever changed in an encounter worthy of Grimm's fairy tales. Handel's music, to a libretto fashioned by the leading poets of his day, is equally magical and had long been regarded as his finest work in the English language.
Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston is a Texas-based ensemble that performs world-class Baroque music on period instruments. Ars Lyrica's world premiere recording of J.A. Hasse's Marc Antonio e Cleopatra brought the ensemble its first Grammy nomination for "a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality" (Early Music America). Ars Lyrica's distinctive programming, drawn from the rich chamber and dramatic repertories of the 17th and 18th centuries, "sets the agenda for imaginative period instrument programming in Houston," according to the Houston Chronicle. The ensemble's first commercial release, on Naxos International, features the world première recordings of Alessandro Scarlatti's La Concettione della Beata Vergine and Euridice dall'Inferno. This disc brought international recognition to the ensemble: Gramophone, the leading journal of the classical recording industry, praised this CD for its "exemplary skill and taste," and Ars Lyrica's musicians for their "impassioned performance" of never-before recorded works. Ars Lyrica's latest Sono Luminus recording, of Domenico Scarlatti's comic intermezzo La Dirindina and his chamber cantata Pur nel sonno, was released in August 2012. For more information visit www.arslyricahouston.org.
Stage director Tara Faircloth's work has been seen in opera houses around the nation. In addition to three company mainstage debuts last season (Wolf Trap Opera, Utah Opera and Opera Colorado) she directed her second world premiere at the Houston Grand Opera, The Bricklayer. In summer 2012, she returns to Wolf Trap to present a new production of The Rake's Progress. Ms. Faircloth has directed much traditional repertoire including works such as Die Zauberflöte, Hänsel and Gretel, Carmen, Don Pasquale and La Traviata. In upcoming seasons she will be mounting La Fille du Regiment at Tulsa Opera and IL Barbiere di Siviglia at Utah Opera. She has created her own productions of Dido and Aeneas for Ars Lyrica Houston at the Festival di Musica Barroca in Mexico, and Mercury Baroque in collaboration with the Dominic Walsh Dance Theater. The baroque repertoire is of special interest to Ms. Faircloth, who made her directorial debut with ALH's production of Cain: Il primo omicidio in 2003, and has since designed and directed a number of shows for the company, including Charpentier's Actéon and La Descente d'Orphée aux Enfers.
Praised by the New York Times for his "beautifully shaped and carefully nuanced singing," tenor Derek Chester is steadily making a name for himself in the world of classical music. He holds voice degrees from the University of Georgia and Yale University and is in the final stages of his doctoral work at the University of North Texas. As a Fulbright Scholar, he spent a year in Germany working as a freelance musician and furthering his training. He has appeared as soloist at the Oregon Bach Festival and Toronto Bach Festival under Helmuth Rilling, and in Monteverdi's Vespers with Ars Lyrica.
Recent concert appearances have included Britten's War Requiem with the Korean Broadcasting System Symphony Orchestra, Mendelssohn's Symphony No.2 the "Lobgesang" with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus, Bach's St. John Passion with the Dallas Bach Society, Händel's Messiah with the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra and the South Dakota Chorale, Händel's Theodora with the Bach Collegium San Diego, Bach's St. Mark Passion (reconstruction) with Barokksolistene in Norway, the Evangelist in Bach's St. Matthew Passion with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and New York City's Voices of Ascension, and Bach's Mass in B minor and Weihnachts Oratorium with American Bach Soloists.
Soprano Blair Doerge, has been described as having a "rare voice of natural beauty, warmth, power and radiance" and has garnered attention for her rich and effortless timbre. Ms. Doerge is the recipient of numerous awards including being named the 2010 Edward Baird Singer of the Year at the National Association of Teachers of Singing Conference, a 2010 and 2008 National Finalist for the Lois Alba Aria Competition, a 2010 National Semi-finalist in the Classical Singer Convention University Competition and a 2010 District Finalist in the National Association of Teachers' of Singing Artist Awards and a 2010 National Finalist in the San Antonio Opera Vocal Competition.
At home on the recital and concert stage, Ms. Doerge regularly performs recitals in and around Houston with collaborator Keith Weber, artistic director of Grace Song Inc. Ms. Doerge has appeared as a soprano soloist in Mozart's Requiem, Händel's Messiah, Fauré's Requiem, Rutter's Requiem, and Dubois' The Seven Last Words of Christ. Blair is a featured soloist and member of CANTARE Houston. With the ensemble, Ms. Doerge has had the pleasure of being the soloist for the world premiere of Ola Gjeilo's Luminous Night of the Soul, and the Houston premiere of Dark Night of the Soul. Upcoming engagements include performing the role of Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana with the Kingwood Summer Opera and Ms. Doerge will be making her debut with Ars Lyrica of Houston in the role of Acis in Händel's Acis and Galatea in the 2012-13 season.