Ars Lyrica Houston Announces 2017-18 'Artful Women' Season

Ars Lyrica Houston, the Grammy-nominated early music ensemble, announces its 2017/18 season: Artful Women: Muse, Heroine, Musician, and Patron features a wide range of musical works by, for, and about women.

Individual programs spotlight female musical pioneers and leading patrons, their particular modes of musical expression, and the enduring power of female icons from mythology and history.

Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is "delighted to be able to offer such a season, which spotlights the diverse contributions of women to our core repertoire with beloved masterworks plus rare gems from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries."

Sweet Philomela, which opens the season on September 22, introduces exotic musical works inspired by Philomela herself, a mythical princess of Athens whose transformation into a nightingale has fascinated poets and musicians for centuries. Italian Sirens on November 12 is devoted to the unique and remarkable flowering of female musical talent of the decades around 1600, especially virtuoso singers, as realized in the work of three remarkable early 17th-century composers: Isabella Leonarda, Francesca Caccini, and Barbara Strozzi. On December 31 a festive program celebrates New Year's in Berlin, as Ars Lyrica recreates a salon chezSara Itzig Levy, whose home was a meeting place for literary and musical giants, including Bach's eldest sons and the young Felix Mendelssohn, Levy's grandnephew. This program features a C. P. E. Bach double concerto for fortepiano and harpsichord, a work closely connected with our legendary hostess: at its 1788 première, Mme. Levy herself played one of the solo parts!

Esther & Jonah, produced in collaboration with Bach Society Houston on February 16, pairs two concise music dramas from opposite ends of the 18th century: Handel's Esther (1718) and Samuel Felsted's Jonah (1775). With gorgeous arias and stirring choruses in abundance, the former celebrates an Old Testament heroine's victory over the forces of evil while the latter is the first American oratorio. This program is also part of the Fifth Annual Houston Early Music Festival. On April 7 Long Live the Queen, featuring the award-winning Moores School Concert Chorale, celebrates the musical legacy of two important royal patrons from the Baroque era with J. S. Bach's rarely heard Trauerode, written for the funeral of Christiane Eberhardine of Saxony, and Handel's Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne.

The May 19 season finale, A Day with Marie Antoinette, is a special evening with France's most famous queen. This program includes a violin concerto by her music teacher Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, operatic excerpts from C. W. Gluck's Orphée, and Haydn's "Paris" Symphony No. 85, subtitled "The Queen."

Highlights of the 2017/18 season include the Ars Lyrica debuts of countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen (winner of the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and First Prize Winner of the 2017 Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition), glass harmonica specialist Dennis James, fortepianist Mario Aschauer, violinist Cynthia Roberts, and sopranos Sydney Anderson, Jennifer Bates, and Alexandra Smither. Returning soloists include sopranos Sherezade Panthaki and Dominique McCormick, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte, countertenor Ryland Angel, tenors Tony Boutté and Eduardo Tercero, and violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock.

Ars Lyrica's 2017/18 season of Artful Women will include six subscription programs, all of which take place in the intimate and lively acoustics of Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Those who purchase season subscriptions prior to May 21 will receive additional benefits, including a complimentary ticket to one of the 2017/18 programs and major discounts to the New Year's Eve Dinner & Fundraising Gala -- a holiday tradition for our Houston patrons!

Ars Lyrica also announces its world première recording of Alessandro Scarlatti's La sposa dei Cantici (Sono Luminus, Spring 2018) featuring soprano Meghan Lindsay and three of the world's leading countertenors-John Holiday, Jay Carter, and Ryland Angel-along with Ars Lyrica string and continuo players, all under the direction of Matthew Dirst.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.arslyricahouston.org or call the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Box Office at 713.315.2525. (Press 4 for Ars Lyrica Houston).


Ars Lyrica Houston 2017/18 Season:
Artful Women: Muse, Heroine, Musician, and Patron

Sweet Philomela
Friday, September 22 at 7:30 pm
Ars Lyrica's season opener introduces exotic musical works inspired by Philomela, a mythical princess of Athens whose transformation into a nightingale has fascinated poets and musicians for centuries. Its primary offering, Johann Adolph Hasse's 1769 lyric cantata L'Armonica, combines the ethereal sounds of the glass harmonica with a soprano soloist and full Baroque orchestra.

Italian Sirens
Sunday, November 12 at 6 pm
The decades around 1600 saw a remarkable flowering of female musical talent, virtuoso singers especially. Italian Sirens is devoted to these unique voices, as realized in the work of three remarkable early 17th-century composers: Isabella Leonarda, Francesca Caccini, and Barbara Strozzi.

New Year's in Berlin
Sunday, December 31 at 9 pm
To ring in the new year, Ars Lyrica recreates a salon chez Sara Itzig Levy in Berlin, whose home was a meeting place for literary and musical giants, including Bach's eldest sons and the young Felix Mendelssohn, Levy's grandnephew. This program features a C. P. E. Bach double concerto for fortepiano and harpsichord, a work closely connected with our legendary hostess: at its 1788 première, Mme. Levy herself played one of the solo parts! The evening also includes an elegant pre-concert dinner and post-concert gala.

Esther and Jonah
Friday, February 16 at 7:30 pm
Ars Lyrica's 2018 Houston Early Music Festival program, offered in collaboration with Bach Society Houston, pairs two concise music dramas from opposite ends of the 18th century: Handel's Esther (1718) and Samuel Felsted's Jonah (1775). With gorgeous arias and stirring choruses in abundance, the former celebrates an Old Testament heroine's victory over the forces of evil while the latter is the first American oratorio.

Long Live the Queen
Saturday, April 7 at 7:30 pm
In a program featuring the award-winning Moores School Concert Chorale, Ars Lyrica celebrates the musical legacy of two important royal patrons from the Baroque era with J. S. Bach's rarely heard Trauerode, written for the funeral of Christiane Eberhardine of Saxony, and Handel's Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne.

A Day with Marie Antoinette
Saturday, May 19 at 7:30 pm
This special evening with France's most famous queen includes a violin concerto by her music teacher Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, operatic excerpts from C. W. Gluck's Orphée, and Haydn's "Paris" Symphony No. 85, subtitled "The Queen."


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.

Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his "clear and evocative conducting" of Handel's Alexander's Feast, which "yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish." Dirst's recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. He is the author of Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and the editor of Bach and the Organ (University of Illinois Press, 2016).



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