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Early Spanish Festival in Ten Performances


José de Nebra (1702-1768)

A festival of early music from Spain, Portugal, the Diaspora, and the colonies of the New World is coming to churches in Boston and one synagogue in Brookline from August 18th through 29th.  Iberica Early Music Festival 2012 has organized four concerts to be given in ten performances; all four will be heard at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain with repeats at various locations. The four are “Spanish Opera and Zarzuela scenes,” “Spanish Oratorio, Sephardic liturgical works, and Hoshana Rabbah cantata” (with one performance at Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline), “Cupid’s Arrow,” and “James Nicolson’s virginal recital with Salome Sandoval, voice and baroque guitar.”

In the opening concert on Saturday, August 18th, with performances at both 5:30 pm and 8 pm, 18th-century lovers triangulate and entangle in arias, duets and choruses from José de Nebra and Antonio de Literes stage works, including contrasting Italianate baroque drama, French dances, and Spanish folk music set to the rhythm of castanets. Says Artistic Director Salome Sandoval, “If you love Handel’s Acis and Galatea, wait until you hear Literes! “

The Festival will include scenes from the opera Amor aumenta el valor (Love magnifies courage) and two Zarzuela operas, Ifigenia en Tracia (Iphigenia in Tracia) by José de Nebra (1702-1768) and Acis y Galatea by Antonio de Literes (1673-1747). (Zarzuela is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes incorporating operatic and popular song.) Also on the programs are instrumental works by Luis de Narváez (fl. 1526–49) and Antonio de Cabezón (1510-1566) for the virginal (early keyboard); love songs for voice and baroque guitar by José Marín (ca. 1619–1699); a selection of rhythmic and fun pieces about Cupid by Spanish composers active in Spain and the New World such as Juan de Araujo (1646-1712), Juan García de Céspedes (1619-1678), Rafael Antonio Castellanos (1725-1791), Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (1590-1664) and Fray Francisco de Santiago (1578-1644); Sephardic liturgical songs by Abraham de Caceres (fl. 1740) and Cristiano Giuseppe Lidarti (1730 – after 1793):, an anonymous cantata for Hoshana Rabbah, and the first oratorio in the Spanish language about the story of Joseph and his brothers by Lluís Vicenç Gargallo (1636-1682).

Singers are Artistic Director Salomé Sandoval, soprano (and baroque guitar); Camila Parias, and Erika Vogel, sopranos; Teri Kowiak, mezzo soprano; Allen Combs, Patrick Kane and Marcio de Oliveira, tenors; Von Bringhurst, Martin Near, Yakov Zamir, and special guest, Michael Collver, countertenors; and baritones Ari Nieh, James Dargan, baritones (the latter also on violin). Instrumentalists include Lisa Brooke and Karen Burciaga, violins; Dan Meyers, recorder and castanets; Elizabeth Hardy, recorder, dulcian, and bassoon; Emily Davison, baroque cello; Joshua Schreiber Shalem, viola da gamba; James Williamson, viol and baroque cello; Sarah Hager, harpsichord. In addition to Collver, guest performers are Doug Freundlich, lute, James Nicolson, virginal, and Tom Zajac, recorder and percussion.

More on each concert:

The second show, Gargallo’s Historia de Joseph, summarizes events in Joseph’s life. He is abandoned in a grotto and then sold to an Egyptian caravan by his envious brothers, only to return wealthy and triumphant but forgiving. These oratorios, set to Spanish Renaissance dances and language, will be performed along with liturgical music composed for the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam (Holland) by Lidarti and Casseres, and the baroque cantata sung fully in Hebrew by a male choir and four countertenor soloists, Dove in the Clefts of the Rock, commissioned for Hoshana Rabbah by the synagogue in Casale Monferrato (Italy) by Anonymous.

El Fuego Early Music Ensemble’s program, “Cupid’s Arrow: 17th– and 18th-Century Songs from Spain and the New World,” depicts sacred and secular love. Spanish conquistadores and South American natives might have listened to villancicos with naughty lyrics and dance rhythms — at church! El Fuego (fire) synthesizes early music and folk styles; the group’s versatility as singers and multi-instrumentalists is recognized in repertoire from Spain and the New World colonies. Artistic Director Sandoval has received wide acclaim for singing while providing her own continuo parts on lutes and guitars; she and Teri Kowiak (voice) and Dan Meyers (woodwinds and percussion) create an unusually rich sound, full of melodic and rhythmic excitement in their performance of Villancicos and Xácaras, keeping the flame of little-known musical masters burning in the 21st century.

For the fourth show, James Nicolson will perform virginal works by the Renaissance composers Antonio de Cabezón and Luis de Narváez, with soprano Sandoval self-accompanying on the baroque guitar in the secular tonos humanos by the Spanish harpist and guitarist José Marín. The instrumental music for the virginal includes the tune Guárdame las vacas (original with lyrics by Cristóbal de Castillejo and popularized for the classical guitar by the Andres Segovia) the songs by Marín about dying of love and living in love, will be performed with text interpolations by the Mexican nun and poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695), a reflection on the volatile heart of men and his judgments toward women.

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