Orchestra, Chorale, Chorus and Soloists conducted by Paul Goodwin
J.S. Bach, The Christmas Oratorio, Part I and II, BWV 248
Mhairi Lawson, soprano; Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Cooley, tenor; Dashon Burton, bass-baritone
Felix Mendelssohn, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Incidental Music, Op. 61
Francesca Faridany, actress
Two titans of Western culture—J.S. Bach and William Shakespeare—are paired in this program.
The first two cantatas of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio open the relaxing and pastoral afternoon. Trumpets and timpani herald the birth of Jesus to begin the first cantata, a celebration and reflection on the birth of Jesus. Similar to the Matthew and John passions, the Oratorio includes a tenor Evangelist who narrates the story of the birth of Christ. These recitatives introduce and connect lyrical solo arias. The cantatas feature the entire Festival choral ensemble—the professional Chorale and volunteer Chorus—sometimes intoning the well-known Passion choral, which links the birth of Christ with the Passion saga, and more often singing in praise accompanied by a full Baroque orchestra featuring some of Bach’s most brilliant writing.
This realization mirrors Bach’s intent with the Christmas Oratorio, which was created to be performed over several days in Leipzig.
The Sunday programs kick off the complete presentation of The Christmas Oratorio. Two of the remaining cantatas are scheduled for Monday afternoon at All Saints, with the Festival’s four vocal soloists and a small Baroque ensemble directed by Andrew Arthur, and the remaining two cantatas will be presented Wednesday night at the Carmel Mission Basilica by the Chorale accompanied by Baroque strings, brass, and timpani with Andrew Megill, conductor.
The second half of the program is Mendelssohn’s Incidental Music to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with actress Francesca Faridany providing Shakespeare’s narration. Faridany is an international film, TV and theater actress who appears in the movie blockbuster, Black Panther, and also on TV in NBC’s Manifest. She is a past winner of a Tony Award for Best Play (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime), a Helen Hayes Outstanding Lead Actress Award and an Outer Critics Circle Outstanding Featured Actress nominee, among many other credits. She has many connections to the Festival. Her grandmother Nancy Morrow, was an early supporter; her mother, Nana, was a longtime Festival administrator, and her sister, pianist Lucy Faridany is the Festival’s Chorus accompanist. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the perfect complement to a tranquil summer afternoon in Carmel.
“This concert begins the 2019 Christmas Oratorio journey,” said Paul Goodwin, “creating maximum variety with three concerts in three venues with three conductors and three formations. This concert places Bach’s most colorful and pastoral cantatas alongside Mendelssohn’s magical masterpiece, a Midsummer Night’s Dream. A concert that encapsulates the beauty of Carmel-by-the-Sea, looking both to the spirit and to nature.”