Ars Lyrica Houston
Esther & Jonah
Friday, February 16 | 7:30 PM
Hobby Center for the Performing Arts | 800 Bagby Street
This program comprises two concise music dramas from opposite ends of the 18th century: G. F. Handel's Esther (1718) and Samuel Felsted's Jonah (1775). With gorgeous arias and stirring choruses, Handel's first English-language oratorio celebrates an Old Testament heroine's ultimate victory over the forces of evil. Such works provided valuable models for Samuel Felsted, a composer born to an English family in Jamaica in the early 1740s. His concise setting of the story of Jonah and the whale is the first American oratorio.
Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award® for Best Opera 2011.