|Juilliard 415 with Maestro Paul Agnew, Anneliese Klenetsky, Mer Wohlgemuth, and Siman Chung
The 22-year old Händel made quite a hit in Rome, writing weekly cantatas for the Accademia dell'Arcadia and laying the groundwork for his later operas. What a miracle that any of these cantatas survived and what a boon that we in New York were able to hear the 1707 Clori, Tirsi e Fileno, thanks to Juilliard 415, the renowned period instrument group, and some highly artistic singers, under the baton of Maestro Paul Agnew.
What a wealth of talent onstage bringing to vivid life this pastoral work about a shepherdess who strings along a pair of shepherds! The "faithless" shepherdess Clori was sung by the versatile soprano Anneliese Klenetsky whom we just enjoyed as the Governess in Britten's Turn of the Screw. With her sparkling soprano and flirtatious manner she was totally convincing and delightful to the ear.
Her suitors were portrayed by the superb Mer Wohlgemuth as the importunate Tirsi and by compelling counter-tenor Siman Chung as the more easily discouraged Fileno. Ms. Wohlgemuth has a somewhat heavier soprano than Ms. Klenetsky and the two voices harmonized perfectly. Ms. Wohlgemuth opened the cantata with a stunning "Cor fedele" in which she expresses her displeasure over Clori's faithlessness.
Mr. Chung's fach is one which we favor and our favorite part of the performance was the final trio. The work ends with the two lovers resigned to the situation, declaring that it is impossible to live without love and to love without suffering. Tirsi and Fileno come to some kind of understanding at the end and a case has been made for a disguised homosexual resolution but such speculation is about as valid as an assumption of a ménage a trois.
We don't see that it makes any difference because what matters is the music and these three artists made music together, marvelous music.
Maestro Paul Agnew led Juilliard 415 in a well realized performance of the score. Particularly notable were the trio of recorders who, for unknown reasons remained unlisted in the program, and the archlute solo played by Adam Cockerham. Our knowledge of early instruments is somewhat limited but this instrument appears to be a smaller version of the theorbo.
Händel would go on to write countless operas; last night we got a glimpse of their birth. It seems to have been a favorable and effortless one. He just tossed it off in a few hours!
(c) meche kroop