Music this Autumn - Prayer in Opera

From 25th September to the 13th November anthems during the 10am Sunday Parish Eucharists will be part of our Prayer in Opera series. 

Director of Music, Robert Greenhill, writes:

During the operatic bel canto (beautiful singing) era of the 18th and 19th century, prayer scenes were featured with increasing frequency. The popularity was rooted in a romantic trend towards utilising religious ceremony for dramatic effect, and none so prevalent as the heroine's pleading in tragic operas. Besides experimentation with musical form, some composers used the prayers to experiment with orchestration, using solo instruments to accompany the singers.

The series will include music by Rossini, Gluck, Humperdinck, Verdi, Donizetti and Purcell, so don't miss out.

Hansel and Gretel – E. Humperdinck (25th September) 

The choir will be singing the aria and duet from Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, which takes place in the haunted forests based on the famous Brothers Grimm fairy tale. It was composed from 1891-2 in Frankfurt. In Act 2 scene 2, Hansel and Gretel are lost in the forest. Night is fast approaching. A little man appears, startling the children. He tells them to relax and close their eyes, for he is the sandman who's come to send them off to dreamland. After sprinkling their eyes with sand, the two children begin falling asleep. Gretel reminds Hansel to say their prayers, and afterwards, they fall asleep peacefully on the forest floor.

Orfeo ed Euridice - C. W. Gluck (9th October)

The choir will be singing the chorus and aria from Orfeo ed Euridice, which was composed in 1762. The opera begins with a chorus Ah se intorno with Orfeo grieving before the grave of his dear wife, Euridice, in the forest. He appeals to the Gods for her to come alive again. Jupiter grants his wish on condition he goes to Hades and calms the spirits of many dead people. On his way back to earth he must not look at her. Towards the end of Act 3 he does look at her and she dies once more and Orfeo sings Che faro senza Euridice (What is life to me without you).

Moses in Egitto - G. Rossini (16th October)

Moses in Egitto was composed in 1827 by Rossini. The scene the choir is singing is Dal tuo stellato soglio from Act 3. The Israelites find their path barred by the Red Sea, and Moses leads them in an ardent prayer for divine mercy.

La Forza del destino – G. Verdi (23rd October)

La Forza del destino (The force of destiny) was composed in 1862. The choir will be singing the male chorus and soprano aria, La vergione degli angeli, “The virgin of the angels’ which is a religious anthem that closes the end of Act II and is set in Our Lady of the Angel church near Hornachuelos, Spain.

Maria Stuarda – G. Donizetti (6th November)

Maria Stuarda by Donizetti was composed in 1835. The choir will be singing an aria and chorus, Deh tu di un’umile preghiera, from Act 2 towards the end of opera before Mary, Queen of Scots is beheaded. She calls the people gathered to a final prayer "Ah! May Thou hear the sound of our humble prayer" and, together, she and the crowd pray for God's mercy.

Dido and Aeneas – H. Purcell (13th November)

Dido and Aeneas by Purcell was composed around 1688 and is one of the earliest operas written in England. The aria and chorus this morning is sung at the end of the opera when Dido's life comes to an end, ‘When I am laid in earth’, also known as "Dido's Lament." The chorus and orchestra then conclude the opera once Dido is dead by ordering the "cupids to scatter roses on her tomb, soft and gentle on her heart. Keep here your watch, and never never never part."