Caramoor Presents Handel’s Pastoral Gem Atalanta and Site-Specific Production of Mozart’s The Secret Gardener; Susan Graham, Isabel Leonard and Chanticleer Round Out Vocal Offerings
Long recognized for its operatic achievements, from the time of Julius Rudel’s music directorship (1964-1976) through the Bel Canto at Caramoor series that concluded last season, Caramoor continues the tradition this season with two outstanding events, tailored to match the bucolic setting of Caramoor’s landscape. San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra led by Nicholas McGegan anchors a presentation of Handel’s pastoral three-act opera Atalanta in the Venetian Theater; and New York’s On Site Opera presents a fully staged site-specific production of Mozart’s charming early opera The Secret Gardener (La finta giardiniera) in Caramoor’s Sunken Garden. Superstar mezzo Susan Graham will also be on hand this summer for a season-closing concert of Handel and Mozart arias with the resident Orchestra of St. Luke’s; Metropolitan Opera favorite Isabel Leonard gives an intimate Spanish recital with guitarist Sharon Isbin; and San Francisco’s beloved all-male chorus Chanticleer celebrates its 40th anniversary season with a centuries-spanning concert. The festival’s 73rd summer season (June 16–July 29) offers these operatic and vocal events and much more, all presented on Caramoor’s historic and idyllic Westchester estate: 90 acres of picturesque Italianate architecture and gardens just one hour’s drive from Manhattan.
This season marks a revived effort to regularly bring Baroque opera to the Caramoor stage. In decades past the Caramoor Festival presented a number of outstanding Baroque operas, including Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea and Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Cavalli’s L’Ormindo, and Handel’s Semele with Beverly Sills in the title role. The renewed Baroque focus intersects with a plan for presenting less-familiar fare in performances by internationally recognized orchestras and ensembles, beginning with Caramoor favorite Nicholas McGegan — “a consummate master of this style” (San Francisco Chronicle) — and his period instrument Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra anchoring a concert performance of Handel’s seldom-performed pastoral gem Atalanta in the Venetian Theater (July 22). McGegan, now in his 32nd year as Music Director of the Orchestra, is renowned for his expertise in this repertoire, having conducted a dozen Handel oratorios and close to twenty of his operas. As he describes Atalanta:
“Handel’s Atalanta was written for the wedding of the son of King George II. Although the plot concerns the loves of Arcadian shepherds, shepherdesses, hunters and huntresses, the protagonists are actually royals pretending to be country folk. Only when they declare their love for each other is their true identity revealed. The work ends with a lot of rejoicing that was originally accompanied by an indoor fireworks display; not something of which a modern fire marshal would approve.
“I am very fond of this opera, which is a much more substantial work than was perhaps needed for the occasion that engendered it. Indeed the Prince and Princess for whose marriage it was composed did not even show up to see it on opening night. Handel’s festive music is always splendid but there is passion and pathos too. I first conducted the work for a recording in Hungary in 1984/5 and have done it several times since, including a second recording with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale. Over the years, I always find new delights in this marvelous and brilliant score.”
Singing the title role of Atalanta is “luminous soprano” Sherezade Panthaki (The New York Times); a Handel performance she gave with Philharmonia Baroque in 2015 was named one of the Top 10 Classical Music Events of the year and described as “a breathtaking combination of expressive ardor, tonal clarity, technical mastery and dramatic vividness” by San Francisco Chronicle. Two of the cast members appearing this summer were featured on the Philharmonia Baroque recording: “rich chocolate” mezzo-soprano Cécile van de Sant (San Francisco Chronicle), and “hardy” baritone Philip Cutlip (The New York Times). The cast also includes soprano Amy Freston, who sings on the Philharmonia Baroque recording of Handel’s Teseo; tenor Isaiah Bell, featured in Mark Morris’s recent Curlew River/Dido and Aeneas at BAM; and bass-baritone Davóne Tines, who recently appeared in the premiere of John Adams’s Girls of the Golden West. New York City-based early music ensemble TENET rounds out the forces, and the concert will be preceded by a lecture by noted Handel scholar Ellen T. Harris.
Reflecting a renewed effort by Caramoor to make full use of its stunning and idyllic campus and non-traditional performance spaces, on July 13 in the Sunken Garden New York’s On Site Opera performs an English adaptation and chamber arrangement of Mozart’s The Secret Gardener. A lighthearted story of love, madness, and redemption, this production was first presented in a community garden on the Upper West Side of Manhattan last spring. As in Atalanta, the Baroque love of disguises and pastoral themes, not to mention Classical antiquity, pervades this early work by an eighteen-year-old Mozart. The fully staged production features a stellar cast of vocalists, among whom are three Bel Canto Young Artist alums: Ashley Kerr, a soprano with “a powerful voice and exceptional musicianship” (Bachtrack); “strongly defined baritone” (Opera Today) Jorell Williams; and mezzo Kristin Gornstein, praised by The New York Times in last spring’s production as having “spun lines of an uncannily silky legato.” They are joined by sopranos Emalie Savoy — winner of Germany’s 2015 ARD Singing Competition — and Katrina Galka, who impressed The Oregonian with “fine coloratura filigree and pure high notes.” Tenors Chad Johnson and Michael Kuhn, characterized respectively as “outstanding” by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and “clear and robust” by Opera News, round out the cast. Period instrument ensemble Grand Harmonie under the direction of Geoffrey McDonald — which played “with grace and verve” (The New York Times) in the Manhattan premiere — provides the accompaniment. The English translation is by Kelley Rourke, and Eric Einhorn directs.
Celebrated mezzo-soprano Susan Graham closes the season with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s on July 29, with a program of Mozart and Handel arias. Long noted as a superb interpreter of Handel, Graham’s “warm, seductive sound” earned her high praise from San Francisco Classical Voice after a 2011 performance of Xerxes, and when she sang an all-Handel concert under Nicholas McGegan at the Hollywood Bowl in 2016, the conductor was quoted in the program notes as saying: “We settled on Handel for this summer once we confirmed that Susan Graham was available.” This final program of Caramoor’s season is led by Bernard Labadie, OSL Principal Conductor Designate and a specialist in this repertoire. Among the Mozart and Handel arias on the program is “Stà nell’ircana pietrosa tana” from Handel’s Alcina, an opera the mezzo recorded with William Christie in 2000, earning high marks from Gramophone for her “exquisitely silky, almost sultry phrasing.”
Metropolitan Opera regular mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard — whose maternal heritage is Argentinean — sings an intimate Spanish recital on June 28 in the Spanish Courtyard with guitarist Sharon Isbin, called “the pre-eminent guitarist of our time” by Boston Magazine. Their concert features music of Spanish composers Lorca, Granados, Rodrigo, Montsalvatge, Tarrega, and de Falla and marks the Caramoor debut of both artists. The duo scored a 2018 Grammy nomination for their recent album Alma Española, from which the program is drawn, and which the Philadelphia Enquirer praised as containing “feasts of beautifully sculpted phrases … glimpses of heaven.”
Finally, San Francisco’s three-time Grammy Award-winning male vocal group Chanticleer — “the world’s reigning male chorus” (New Yorker) — celebrates its 40th anniversary with a Spanish Courtyard performance this summer on July 26, singing works that range from Palestrina to the present. The program includes multiple contemporary works including Steven Stucky’s Whispers, Chen Yi’s Excerpt from the Path of Beauty, and Jackson Hill’s In Winter’s Keeping, and a selection of traditional, standard, and jazz works drawn from the group’s extensive and eclectic repertoire.
High resolution photos are available here.
Caramoor is a performing arts center located on a unique 90-acre estate with Italianate architecture and gardens in Westchester County, NY. It enriches the lives of its audiences through innovative and diverse musical performances of the highest quality. Its mission also includes mentoring young professional musicians and providing educational programs for young children centered around music. Audiences are invited to come early to explore the beautiful grounds; tour the historic Rosen House, a stunning mansion listed on the National Register of Historic Places; unwind with a pre-concert picnic or concessions with beer and wine; enjoy a delicious Afternoon Tea on Wednesdays and Sundays throughout the summer season; and discover beautiful music in the relaxed settings of the Venetian Theater, Spanish Courtyard, Music Room of the Rosen House, and magnificent gardens. Summer concerts take place in two outdoor theaters: the acoustically superb Venetian Theater, which seats approximately 1,500, and the more intimate, romantic Spanish Courtyard, which seats around 470. In the fall and winter, concerts are presented in the splendid Music Room in the Rosen House. Caramoor’s gardens, also used for concerts and the sound exhibition Sonic Innovations, are well worth the visit and include nine unique perennial gardens. Among them are a Sense Circle for the visually impaired, the Sunken Garden, a Butterfly Garden, the Tapestry Hedge, and the Iris and Peony Garden.
Getting to Caramoor
Getting to Caramoor is simple by car, train or public transportation. All parking is free and close to the performance areas. Handicapped parking is also free and readily available.
By car from New York City, take the Henry Hudson Parkway north to the Saw Mill River Parkway north to I-684 north to Exit 6. Go east on Route 35 to the traffic light (0.3 miles). Turn right onto Route 22 south, and travel 1.9 miles to the junction of Girdle Ridge Road where there is a green Caramoor sign. At the junction, veer left and make a quick right onto Girdle Ridge Road. Continue on Girdle Ridge Road 0.5 miles to the Caramoor gates on the right. Approximate drive time is one hour.
By train from Grand Central Station, take the Harlem Division Line of the Metro-North Railroad heading to Southeast, and exit at Katonah. Caramoor is a 3.5-mile drive from the Katonah station, where taxi service is always available and free shuttle service is available for most performances. For current information, check the Metro-North schedule.
Caramoor opera and classical vocal music, summer 2018
Isabel Leonard, mezzo-soprano* & Sharon Isbin, guitar*
Lorca (trans. Isbin): “El café de Chinitas,” “Romance de Don Boyso,” and “Sevillanas del siglo XVIII” from Canciones españolas antiguas
Granados: Danza española No. 5 in E minor, “Andaluza”
Rodrigo: Aranjuez ma pensée
Montsalvatge (trans. Isbin): “Canción de cuña para dormir a un negrito” from Cinco canciones negras
Lorca (arr. Torre/trans. Isbin): “La tarara” from Canciones españolas antiguas
Tarrega: Capricho árabe
de Falla: Siete canciones populares españolas
Mozart’s The Secret Gardener
On Site Opera
Ashley Kerr, soprano (Sandrina)
Emalie Savoy, soprano (Arminda)
Katrina Galka, soprano (Serpetta)
Kristin Gornstein, mezzo-soprano (Ramiro)
Chad Johnson, tenor (Belfiore)
Michael Kuhn, tenor (Podesta)
Jorell Williams, baritone (Nardo)
Geoffrey McDonald, conductor
Eric Einhorn, director
English translation & dialogue by Kelley Rourke
Beth Goldenberg, costume designer
Chamber Orchestration by Yoni Kahn & Thomas Carroll
4pm, pre-concert lecture at 3pm by Ellen T. Harris
Sherezade Panthaki, soprano (Atalanta)
Amy Freston, soprano (Meleagro)
Cécile van de Sant, mezzo soprano (Irene)
Isaiah Bell, tenor (Aminta)
Philip Cutlip, baritone (Nicandro)
Davóne Tines, bass-baritone (Mercurio)
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
40th Anniversary program
Lassus: Surrexit Pastor bonus
Palestrina: Gaude Gloriosa
Gibbons: O Clap Your Hands
Byrd: Ave verum corpus
Salazar: Salve Regina
Strauss: Drei Männerchöre
Morley: Now is the Month of Maying
Hawley: Io son la primavera
Arcadelt: Il bianco e dolce cigno
Garrop: Jarba, Mare Jarba
Spiritual: I WAnt to Die Easy
Whitaker and Alexander: Straight Street
Spiritual: Keep Your Hand on the Plow
Orchestra of St. Luke’s
4pm, pre-concert talk at 3pm
Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Bernard Labadie, Principal Conductor Designate
Susan Graham, mezzo soprano
Handel: Overture from Ariodante
Handel: “Dopo notte” from Ariodante
Handel: “Scherza infida” from Ariodante
Handel: Overture from Alcina
Handel: “Stà nell’ircana pietrosa tana” from Alcina
Mozart: Overture from Le nozze di Figaro
Mozart: “Non so più cosa son” from Le nozze di Figaro
Mozart: “Voi che sapete” from Le nozze di Figaro
Mozart: Symphony No. 36 in C, K. 425, “Linz”
Mozart: “Deh per questo istante” from La clemenza di Tito
* Caramoor debut
All concerts made possible, in part, by ArtsWestchester with funds from the Westchester County Government.
All concerts made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
The 2018 Summer Music Festival is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.