March 4: 8pm show (Christian Science Building, Durant/Bowditch Berkeley)
March 5: 3pm show (Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills)
The Albany Consort orchestra (Jonathan Salzedo, Marion Rubinstein, Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo and friends) and soloists Rita Lilly (Esther), Kyle Stegall (Achashverosh), Ben Kazez (Haman), Corey Head (Mordochai) and Kari Kirk (Donna Israelita) and The Albany Consort chorus! Stage direction is by Michael Mohammed.
The opera “Esther,” commissioned by the Portuguese Jewish community of
Amsterdam in the 18th century then lost for over two hundred years, will be
staged at Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, on Sunday, March 5.
Seventeen musicians playing Baroque period instruments, five vocal soloists
and a choir will bring this unique work to life as good Queen Esther bravely
speaks up for her people and she and her cousin Mordechai ultimately defeat
the wicked Haman.
The music for “Esther” was completed in 1774 by Cristiano Lidarti, a
non-Jewish composer, and the libretto for the opera was provided in
transliterated Hebrew by Rabbi Jacob Raphael Saraval of Venice. A Hebrew
libretto is unusual. “Ironically, the text is from the same source that
Handel used for his account of the story,” states Jonathan Salzedo founder
of the Albany Consort, the orchestra that will accompany the singers.
“However,” continues Salzedo, “Handel’s version is in English, which
can never project the same energy as the Hebrew text.”
Both the Hebrew and English texts will be projected on a screen during the
It wasn’t until 1998 that “Esther” was rescued from obscurity when a
Cambridge University professor saw the work on a bookseller’s listing,
purchased it and noted that while the libretto was written in Roman
characters it was not in a language he understood. When he learned that the
language was Hebrew, he brought the work to the attention of the late Israel
Adler, founder of the Jewish Music Research Centre at Hebrew University in
Jerusalem. Adler then edited and published “Esther”. In 2000, Hebrew
University staged the first known performance since 1774.
“Esther” will tell her story on the Peninsula in a free performance
commissioned by Beth Am congregant Michael Morganstern, who also sponsored a
concert of Jewish Art Music with the Albany Consort in 2015. “I really
want people, especially Jews, to know and enjoy the rich legacy of Jewish
Baroque music,” says Morganstern. “These works are exquisite and deserve
to be brought to life.”
See you there!