Handel – Susanna (Les Arts Florissants conducted by William Christie)

Conducted by William Christie, French Baroque musical ensemble Les Arts Florissants performs Susanna (HWV 66), a sacred oratorio in three acts, by George Frideric Handel, in English. Broadcast by Mezzo, 2009.

Soloists

  • Susanna: Sophie Karthäuser (soprano)
  • Joacim: Max Emanuel Cencic (countertenor)
  • Daniel: David DQ Lee (countertenor)
  • Ancien 1: William Burden (tenor)
  • Ancien 2: Alan Ewing (bass)
  • Chelsias: Maarten Koningsberger (baritone)
  • Servante: Emmanuelle de Negri (soprano)
  • A Judge: Ludovic Provost (bass)

Programme

With the starting times in the video:

  1. Act 1 The Israelites, in chorus, lament their captivity. Susanna and her husband Joacim sing of their happiness in marriage and Susanna’s father of his pride in having such a model wife as his daughter. Joacim must leave town for some days and husband and wife bid farewell. Two elders of the community, both filled with lust for the beautiful Susanna, plan to force themselves upon her during her husband’s absence. The chorus comments that such wickedness will call down heaven’s anger.
    • 00:00:42 – Overture
    • 00:05:02 – Choir: How long, oh Lord! shall (Chœur, SATB)
    • 00:09:18 – Aria: Clouds o’ertake the brightest day (Joacim)
    • 00:14:35 – Duet: When thou art night (Susanna, Joacim)
    • 00:16:56 – Aria: Who fears the Lord, may dare all foes (Chelsias)
    • 00:19:58 – Aria: When first I saw my lovely maid (Joacim)
    • 00:24:07 – Aria: Would custom bid the melting fair (Susanna)
    • 00:29:21 – Aria: Without the swain’s assiduous care (Susanna)
    • 00:32:48 – Aria: The parent bird in search of food (Joacim)
    • 00:36:48 – Aria: Bending to the throne of glory (Susanna)
    • 00:41:26 – Choir: Virtue shall never long (Chœur, SATB)
    • 00:46:28 – Aria: Ye verdant hills, ye balmy vales (Ancien 1)
    • 00:51:33 – Aria: The oak that for a thousand years (Ancien 2)
    • 00:55:02 – Aria: When the trumpet sounds to arms (Ancien 1)
    • 00:57:15 – Choir: Righteous heav’n beholds (Chœur, SATB)
  2. Act 2 Joacim, apart from his wife, sings of how much he misses her. Susanna, meanwhile, suffering from the hot weather, also misses her husband, and seeks relief from the sun by bathing in a stream in her garden. She is watched by the two elders whose advances she indignantly repulses. They take revenge by announcing to the community that they have caught Susanna having illicit sex with a young man and order her trial for adultery. Joacim is distressed to be informed of this by letter and returns home.
    • 01:02:22 – Aria: On fair Euphrates’ verdant side (Joacim)
    • 01:05:56 – Aria: Chrystal streams in murmurs flowing (Susanna)
    • 01:10:02 – Aria: I ask yon damask rose be sweet (Servante)
    • 01:12:57 – Aria: Beneath the cypress gloomy shade (Servante)
    • 01:16:18 – Aria: Blooming as the face of spring (Ancien 1)
    • 01:20:08 – Aria: The torrent that sweeps in its course (Ancien 2)
    • 01:22:56 – Trio: Away! Ye tempt me (Susanna, Ancien 1, Ancien 2)
    • 01:25:33 – Aria: If guiltless blood be your intent (Susanna)
    • 01:30:48 – Choir: Let justice reign and flourish (Chœur, SATB)
    • 01:33:35 – Aria: On the rapid whirlwind’s wing (Joacim)
    • 01:35:34 – Choir: Oh Joacim! thy wedded truth (Chœur, SATB)
  3. Act 3 Susanna is found guilty and condemned to death. The First Elder pretends to be greatly distressed by this outcome. The very youthful prophet Daniel, little more than a boy, steps forward from the crowd and demands to be allowed to question the two Elders separately. They give conflicting stories of where they caught Susanna in illicit sex and Daniel denounces them as liars. The Elders are sentenced to execution, Susanna is re-united with her loving husband, and all praise Susanna’s virtue and chastity.
    • 01:39:32 – Choir: The cause is decided (Chœur, STAB)
    • 01:41:38 – Aria: Faith displays her rosy wing (Susanna)
    • 01:45:46 – Aria: Round thy urn my tears shall flow (Ancien 1)
    • 01:51:01 – Aria: Tis not age’s sullen face (Daniel)
    • 01:53:39 – Choir: Impartial heav’n! (Chœur, SATB)
    • 02:00:26 – Aria: Chastity thou Cherub bright (Daniel)
    • 02:04:23 – Aria: Guilt trembling spoke my doom (Susanna)
    • 02:10:35 – Duet: To my chaste Susanna’s (Susanna, Joacim)
    • 02:13:27 – Aria: Raise your voice to sounds of joy (Chelsias)
    • 02:14:08 – Choir: Bless’d be the day (Chœur, SATB)

Les Arts Florissants

Les Arts Florissants
Les Arts Florissants. Photo: greekfestival.gr

Les Arts Florissants is a Baroque musical ensemble in residence at the Théâtre de Caen in Caen, France. The organization was founded by conductor William Christie in 1979. The ensemble derives its name from the 1685 opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. The organization consists of a chamber orchestra of period instruments and a small vocal ensemble. Current notable members include soprano Danielle de Niese and tenor Paul Agnew, who has served as assistant conductor since 2007. Jonathan Cohen is also on the conducting staff. Christie remains the organization’s Artistic Director.

Although not specifically a baroque opera ensemble, it is within this field that Les Arts Florissants has achieved its greatest successes. The majority of the ensemble’s performances are of period operas (both staged and in concert), many of which are available on CD on the Harmonia Mundi and Erato labels and on DVD. The group first drew international acclaim in the area of opera in December 1986-January 1987 with a production of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Atys at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. The opera had not been performed since 1753 and Christie had unearthed the score at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and created a performing edition. William Christie: “There were a number of important moments in the history of the Arts Florissants, but there’s one moment that obviously stands out – and that’s the moment when we produced Atys.” Christie had been approached by the director of the Paris Opera, Massimo Bogianckino, to think about putting on a Lully opera. Christie was advised by the Opéra-Comique’s Thierry Fouquet that Quinault’s libretto for Atys would demand an extraordinary stage director – Jean-Marie Villégier took this role [1]and he, together with Christie, created Atys. The production marked the renaissance of Baroque Opera in France. The ensemble has continued in a similar vein of presenting rarely heard works at their home in Caen and on the stages of major opera houses and concert venues like the Teatro Real, the Opéra national du Rhin, the Opéra National de Paris, Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Barbican Centre. The ensemble also occasionally presents works from the standard repertoire, most particularly a number of operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Les Arts Florissants has also had a number of successes in the concert repertoire. The organization has performed and recorded a number of oratorios, cantatas, madrigals, masses, motets, and other musical forms typical of early music. Occasionally the ensemble has made forays into contemporary repertoire, notably performing the world premiere of Betsy Jolas’s Motets III – Hunc igitur terrorem at a gala on the occasion of the ensemble’s 20th anniversary in 1999.

Many former members of Les Arts Florissants have gone on to have successful music careers outside of the organization. These include several internationally renowned conductors in the field of early music, including Marc Minkowski (founder of Les Musiciens du Louvre), Christophe Rousset (founder of Les Talens Lyriques), Hugo Reyne (founder of La Simphonie du Marais), and Hervé Niquet (founder of Le Concert Spirituel).

Ensemble website: arts-florissants.com

Sources

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