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Home » French Composers » M-A Charpentier » OAE Tour - David & Jonathas

David et Jonathas - Charpentier (2005 OAE Tour)

David et Jonathas (H. 490, 1688). Emmanuelle Haïm, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment & Choir of the Enlightenment. Brussels: Palais des Beaux-Arts, 19 March, 8:00 pm; Paris: Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, 20 March 7:30 pm; New York: Alice Tully Hall, 25 March, 8:00 pm. London: Barbican Hall, 27 March, 7:30 pm; Cuenca, Spain: Teatro-Auditorio, 9 April, 9:00 pm; Salzburg: Grosser Saal, Mozarteum, Large Hall, 11 April, 11:00 am.

New York, 26 March: I went to Charpentier's David & Jonathas directed by Emmanuelle Haïm at Alice Tully Hall last night. It was superb, and I highly recommend that anyone in or near London attend tomorrow's performance. The opera will be repeated in Cuenca on April 9 and in Salzburg on April 11.

As in the recordings by Michel Corboz (Erato STU 71435 (2 LPs 1981)) and Willliam Christie (Harmonia Mundi HMA 1901289/90 (2 CDs 1988)), the skeletal surviving parts were filled out with other instruments, in each case a bit differently. In New York, the orchestra, led by Catherine Mackintosh, consisted of 7 violins, 6 violas, 2 cellos, 2 bass violins, percussion, 2 trumpets, 2 transverse flutes and piccolos, 1 recorder, 1 oboe & recorder, a second oboe, and a bassoon & bass recorder. The continuo section included Ms. Haïm (harpsichord), a second keyboard player, Yves Castagnet (harpsichord & organ), 2 theorbos (Elizabeth Kenny & William Carter), cello (Richard Tunnicliffe), and bass viol (Sarah Cunningham). Unlike the two recordings, both performed at a=415 before the widespread availability of 392 woodwinds, last night's version was performed at historical pitch of a=392.

Key roles were taken by Paul Agnew, haute-contre (David); Jaël Azzaretti, soprano (Jonathas); Laurent Naouri, bass (Saül); & Andrew Foster-Williams, bass (Achis). Members of the Choir of the OAE (7 women & 16 men) performed the smaller solo parts. The singing was excellent, with no obvious weaknesses. Paul Agnew in particular was superb in very high role of David, taken by falsettists on the higher-pitched recordings. This was his first appearance, having replaced Mark Padmore, who appeared as David in Brussels and Paris.

The complete list of performers is appended below. There were a couple of last minute changes: Daniel Auchincloss sang La Pythonisse, and a Berger replaced a scheduled Captif.

Dress was white tie, and there was no staging, allowing the singers to concentrate on the music. Handouts included a nicely printed libretto featuring a new translation by Graham Sadler, and a concise summary of the work by Peter Laki. Lights were left on over the auditorium making it possible to follow the libretto throughout.

Both temperature and humidity were moderate, so there were no tuning fiascos as sometimes occur here in the spring. A harpsichord may go a semitone sharp in an hour or less on the first humid day.

Emmanuelle Haïm presents quite a 17th Century appearance, with long, curly, dark red hair. She stood to direct the chorus and orchestra, then would abruptly sit at the harpsichord to accompany soloists, popping up again during ritornellos and choruses.

The orchestra performed with precision, as we have come to expect from Britain's finest. While air travel is the bane of natural brass players (one's lips swell at high altitude), the OAE's trumpeters, David Blackadder and Philip Bainbridge, maintained perfect control, even when they abruptly switched to instruments in a different key near the end of the opera. I noticed only one instance when performers were out of sync, and it lasted for just a couple of bars before the lutenists adjusted to the singers (Captifs) who had gotten ahead of the continuo.

Although the acts of David & Jonathas originally alternated with the acts of a spoken play in Latin (Saül), the opera easily stands on its own. The large booklet included with the Erato LP set and Catherine Cessac's biography of Charpentier include act-by-act summaries of the play.

Approximate timings were as follows: Prologue: 18 minutes; Act I: 27 minutes; Act II: 17 minutes; Intermission: 23 minutes; Act III: 17 minutes; Act IV: 21 minutes; Act V: 25 minutes.

List of Participants

Emmanuelle Haïm, Conductor

Characters of the Prologue
Saül, King of the Israelites - Laurent Naouri, Bass
La Pythonisse (The Witch) - Daniel Auchincloss, Countertenor, replacing William Towers due to illness
L'Ombre de Samuel (The Ghost of Samuel) - Richard Savage, Bass

Characters of the Tragedy
David, pursued by Saül - Paul Agnew, High Tenor
Jonathas, brother of Saül, friend to David - Jaël Azzaretti, Soprano
Saül, King of the Israelites - Laurent Naouri, Bass
Achis, King of the Philistines - Andrew Foster-Williams, Bass
Joabel, one of Achis' generals, friend to David - Richard Burkhard, Tenor
Three Bergers (shepherds) - Grace Davidson, Soprano
Elizabeth Weisberg, Soprano
Philippa Hyde, Soprano
Two Captifs (captives) - Susan Gilmour-Bailey, Soprano
Helen Groves, Soprano
Un Guerrier (a warrior) - John Mackenzie, Bass
Un du peuple (one of the people) - Neil Bellingham, Tenor
Un de la suite de David (one of David's escort) - Daniel Auchincloss, Countertenor
Un de la suite de Jonathas (one of Jonathan's escort) - Giles Underwood, Bass

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Catherine Mackintosh, Leader
Catherine Weiss, Principal Second
Jill Samuel
Rodolfo Richter
Susan Carpenter-Jacobs
Claire Sansom
Claire Holden

Jan Schlapp
Nicholas Logie
Katharine Hart

Annette Isserlis
Martin Kelly
Marina Ascherson

Richard Tunnicliffe
Jonathan Manson
Robbie Jacobs
Lynn Selwood
Emily Robinson

Sarah Cunningham

Neil McLaren
Elizabeth Walker

Anthony Robson
Cherry Forbes

Andrew Watts

Marion Scott
Anthony Robson
Andrew Watts

David Blackadder
Phillip Bainbridge

Alan Emslie

Yves Castagnet

Elizabeth Kenny
William Carter

Emmanuelle Haïm, Harpsichord
Yves Castagnet, Harpsichord and Organ
Elizabeth Kenny and William Carter, Theorbo
Richard Tunnicliffe, Cello
Sarah Cunningham, Viola da Gamba

Choir of the Enlightenment

Emma Brain Gabbott
Grace Davidson (Berger 1)
Julia Doyle
Susan Gilmour-Bailey (Captif 1)
Helen Groves (Captif 2)
Philippa Hyde (Berger 3)
Carol Hall
Elizabeth Weisberg (Berger 2)

Daniel Auchincloss (Un de la suite de David)
Timothy Kenworthy-Brown
David Clegg
Wilfrid Swansborough
William Towers (La Pythonisse)

Malcolm Bennett
Mark Bradbury
John Kingsley-Smith
Norbert Meyn
Paul Thompson

Neil Bellingham (Un du peuple)
Richard Burkhard (Joabel)
John Mackenzie (Un guerrier)
Richard Savage (L'Ombre de Samuel)
Philip Tebb
Giles Underwood (Un de la suite de Jonathas)

Marshall Marcus, Chief Executive
Charlotte Wadham, Director of Planning
Katy Shaw, Director of Development and Marketing
Anna Rowe, Director of Finance
Philippa Brownsword, Orchestra Manager
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Third Floor, 33 Henrietta Street
Covent Garden, London WC2E 8NA

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