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In April, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and John Eliot Gardiner Launch European Semele Tour and Release Easter-Themed Album, Love is come again

Early next month, the Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, and John Eliot Gardiner embark on a month-long tour of Europe with a new production of Handel’s Semele. Directed by Thomas Guthrie, this takes them to four iconic concert halls – the Paris Philharmonie (April 8), Barcelona’s Palau de la Música (April 24), Milan’s La Scala (May 6), and Rome’s Sala Santa Cecilia (May 8) – as well as to London’s oldest new theater: the Alexandra Palace Theatre (May 2), a faithfully restored marvel of Victorian engineering that has just reopened for the first time in 80 years. Gardiner also leads the Monteverdi Choir on Love is come again, a personally curated album of Easter-themed choral music, which is due for release on the ensembles’ own Soli Deo Gloria (SDG) label on April 5.

Semele on tour (April 8–May 8)

The winner of more Gramophone Awards than any other living artist, John Eliot Gardiner – the Founder and Artistic Director of the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras (MCO) – considers Semele to be “Handel’s sexiest opera.” Thanks in part to its risqué storyline, and such sensual arias as “Endless pleasure, endless love,” the opera was initially suppressed after only a few performances. The tour marks the first time Gardiner and his ensembles will have undertaken the work since recording it for Erato in 1983; almost three decades later, in 2012, BBC Music magazine still selected theirs as “the best-conducted Semele on disc.” The MCO is now using a fuller version of Handel’s opera that includes a number of passages very rarely heard in modern performance. This fuller score will be presented in an original concert staging by British director Thomas Guthrie, of whom Opera News declares: “Guthrie is hot news. His imagination knows no bounds.” English soprano Louise Alder, named Young Singer of the Year at the 2017 International Opera Awards, will star in the title role, opposite the Jupiter of young English tenor Hugo Hymas, “a name to watch” (The Guardian). In the dual roles of Juno and Ino, Semele’s sister, is French mezzo-soprano Lucile Richardot, whose “fierce performance” (New York Times) as Cléopâtre highlighted Gardiner and the ensembles’ recent “Berlioz Series 2018” tour. Rounding out the international cast are two Italians: “superb” countertenor Carlo Vistoli (Financial Times) and bass Gianluca Buratto, who “clearly has a major career before him” (New Yorker). Richardot, Hymas and Buratto were also soloists on the MCO’s celebrated “Monteverdi 450” tour of 2017.

Love is come again on record (April 5)

Due for release on April 5, Love is come again is a new and primarily a cappella choral collection for Easter, sung by the Monteverdi Choir with occasional support from the English Baroque Soloists. Following in the centuries-old tradition of seasonal Passion Plays, the album’s program retells the Christian resurrection story through sacred works – many in original arrangements by Gardiner himself – by William Cornysh, Jean L’Héritier, John Taverner, Thomas Tallis, Leonora d’Este, William Byrd, Thomas Morley, Giovanni Gabrieli, Carlo Gesualdo, Heinrich Schütz, Samuel Scheidt, Jacob Gippenbusch, Joseph Rheinberger, Benjamin Britten, and others (see full track listing below). Gardiner, who curated the program, calls it “a fantastic mosaic of magnificent pieces all associated with the Easter story and the Resurrection.” He explains:

“This personal selection of music for Easter from the 11th to the 20th centuries tells the story of the Resurrection and Christ’s appearances to his disciples. It is based on my experience of compiling and directing the music for a mimed Easter play that was performed in village churches in Dorset every year between 1963 and 1984; the play was the brainchild of my mother, Marabel Gardiner, to whose memory this recording is dedicated.”

Click here to see Gardiner talk further about Love is come again and the local tradition that inspired it.

Looking ahead: Berlioz, Beethoven, six national debuts, and more

Following the album release and tour, Gardiner and the MCO look forward to a full summer. At the closing concert of France’s Festival of Saint-Denis, they perform Verdi’s Requiem (July 3), of which their interpretation was recently hailed as “perhaps as perfect a demonstration of the power of music as I have ever experienced” (Daily Express, UK). The performance will feature the MCO’s Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. To celebrate this milestone, together with that of the 150th anniversary of Hector Berlioz’s death, Gardiner and the orchestra embark on their next European tour, giving staged concerts of the composer’s first opera, Benvenuto Cellini, in London, Berlin, Versailles, and La Côte-Saint-André (Aug 29–Sep 8). Marking the opera’s first modern performances on period instruments, the tour provides a fitting sequel to the MCO’s transatlantic “Berlioz Series 2018” tour, which prompted the Financial Times to conclude: “Berlioz has no idea what he missed.”

These summer engagements serve as an upbeat to the MCO’s 2019-20 season, which they launch with an international fall tour. This sees Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists make national debuts in Russia, Slovakia, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile with a program of choral masterpieces by Monteverdi, Scarlatti, and Carissimi (Sep 26–Nov 16). Their appearances in Moscow and St. Petersburg highlight the UK-Russia Year of Music, a new binational program that celebrates the two countries’ rich musical cultures. The coming season also sees Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique undertake complete Beethoven symphonic cycles on period instruments at high-profile destinations on both sides of the Atlantic (Feb 9–May 16, 2020). These include London’s Barbican, Barcelona’s Palau de la Música, Chicago’s Harris Theater, and New York’s Carnegie Hall, where Gardiner is a featured Perspectives artist next season.

About the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras (MCO)

The three ensembles that make up MCO – the Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique – are a leading force on the international music scene. Comprising world-class instrumentalists and singers of many different nationalities, they help realize the distinctive vision of their Founder and Artistic Director, John Eliot Gardiner, in groundbreaking projects spanning eight centuries of musical masterpieces. The Monteverdi Choir was founded in 1964 to bring fresh drama and immediacy to the choral repertoire. Performing on period instruments, the English Baroque Soloists specialize in Baroque and early Classical music, while the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique focuses on music of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Known for their expressive intensity, consummate technique, and historically informed performances, all three ensembles share an instantly recognizable core sound. Their 150-plus recordings have been honored with numerous prizes, including two Grammys and 14 Gramophone Awards.

To download high-resolution photos, click here.


Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras: upcoming engagements

April 8–May 8: European tour
Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, and John Eliot Gardiner
Handel: Semele (staged in concert)
Semele: Louise Alder, soprano
Jupiter: Hugo Hymas, tenor
Juno/Ino: Lucile Richardot, mezzo-soprano
Athamus: Carlo Vistoli, countertenor
Cadmus/Somnus: Gianluca Buratto, bass
Director: Thomas Guthrie

April 8: Paris, France (Philharmonie de Paris)
April 24: Barcelona, Spain (Palau de la Música)
May 2: London, UK (Alexandra Palace Theatre)
May 6: Milan, Italy (La Scala)
May 8: Rome, Italy (Sala Santa Cecilia)

July 3
Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, and John Eliot Gardiner
Saint-Denis, France
Saint-Denis Festival
Basilique de Saint-Denis
Verdi: Requiem

Aug 29–Sep 8: European tour
Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, and John Eliot Gardiner
Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini
Michael Spyres, tenor
Matthew Rose, bass
Tareq Nazmi, bass
Krystian Adam, tenor
Ashley Riches, bass

Aug 29: La Côte-Saint-André, France (venue tba)
Aug 31: Berlin, Germany (Berliner Festspiele)
Sep 2: London, UK (venue tba)
Sep 8: Versailles, France (Opéra Royal, Palace of Versailles)

Sep 26–Nov 16: International tour
Monteverdi Choir and John Eliot Gardiner
Choral Masterpieces by Monteverdi, Scarlatti, and Carissimi

Sep 26: Moscow, Russia (national debut)
Sep 27: St. Petersburg, Russia (debut)
Oct 1: Bratislava, Slovakia (national debut)
Nov 7: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (national debut)
Nov 9: São Paulo, Brazil (debut)
Nov 11: Montevideo, Uruguay (national debut)
Nov 13: Buenos Aires, Argentina (national debut)
Nov 15: Santiago, Chile (national debut)
Nov 16: Frutillar, Chile (debut)

Feb 9–May 16, 2020: International tour
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and John Eliot Gardiner
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1–9, complete cycle

Feb 9–14: Barcelona, Spain (Palau de la Musica)
Feb 19–24: New York, NY (Carnegie Hall, “Perspectives” series)
Feb 27–March 3: Chicago, IL (Harris Theater)
May 11–16: London, UK (Barbican Centre)
June 22–27: Athens, Greece (venue tba)

New recording

Love is come again
Music for the Springhead Easter Play
Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, and John Eliot Gardiner
Release date: April 5
Label: Soli Deo Gloria (SDG)

Anonymous (traditional): The seven virgins
Carlo Gesualdo: “O vos omnes” (No. 5 of Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday)
William Cornysh: Woefully arrayed

John Taverner: Dum transisset Sabbatum I
Anon. (trad.): Love is come again; Now the green blade riseth
Jean L’Héritier: Surrexit pastor bonus

Thomas Morley, arr. Gardiner: Eheu! They have taken Jesus
Heinrich Schütz, arr. Gardiner: “But Mary stood without the sepulcher” from Historia der Auferstehung Jesu Christi
Anon. (trad.), arr. Gardiner: Bless’d Mary Magdalene

Anon. (medieval), arr. Gardiner: And behold two of them went that day
Joseph Rheinberger: “Abendlied” (No. 3 of Drei geistliche Gesänge, Op. 69)
William Byrd: Alleluia. And it came to pass
Anon. (liturgical) & Heinrich Schütz, arr. Gardiner: And they said one to another – Verily the Lord is risen
Jacob Gippenbusch: Die ganze Welt, Herr Jesu Christ
Samuel Scheidt: Surrexit Christus hodie
Anon. (trad.), arr. Friedrich von Spee: Hilariter

Anon. (liturgical), arr. Gardiner: Peter saith, I go a-fishing
Anon. (liturgical): Kyrie (Movement 1 of Mass XI “Orbis factor”)
Leonora d’Este: Ego sum panis vivus
Benjamin Britten, arr. Gardiner: Lov’st thou me?
Thomas Tallis: If ye love me

Giovanni Gabrieli: Surrexit pastor bonus
Anon. (liturgical), arr. Gardiner: Non nobis, Domine

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© 21C Media Group, March 2019

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