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Jeff Spurgeon: You are about to enjoy a program of Baroque vocal music, sung by a rising star of the opera world, who is joined by one of the premier early music orchestras in the world. Trinidadian Soprano, Jeanine De Bique and Concerto Köln are finishing up the US leg of their tour with this performance. This is Carnegie Hall Live. I'm Jeff Spurgeon and I'm joined by John Schaefer.
John Schaefer: It's actually Jeanine De Bique's second time at Carnegie, but her first time here in Zankel Hall, the, uh, subterranean more intimate space at Carnegie. And to tonight De Bique and Concerto Köln will perform for a sold-out crowd. And Jeff, it's a really interesting concert. Earlier this year, De Bique and Concert Köln released an album together called Mirrors, which featured a lot of music by Handel, some arias, some instrumental music, but also music by some of Handel's contemporaries, composers who are a lot less well-known - names like Graun, Broschi, and I'll say this one carefully, Leonardo Vinci.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes. Not Leonardo da Vinci, no different guy. And, uh, thanks to the writers for that line. I'm not taking the rap for that one tonight. That Mirrors album is the basis for this concert, and we asked Jeanine De Bique about the whole concept behind the, well, the whole business.
Jeanine De Bique: We decided to take the heroines of Handel and juxtapose them with his contemporaries, composers of his era, his time with the same text or aria of those same heroines or opera in the Baroque golden age.
John Schaefer: That's Jeanine De Bique speaking about the music on tonight's program. So that album title Mirrors is kind of a, you'll pardon the pun, a reflection on these different characters and the fact that we get different views of them through different kinds of music. Same words, often same libretti, but different music from different composers. And that can often dramatically change the mood or the interpretation of an aria.
Jeff Spurgeon: It's not how you sing, but uh, not what you sing, but how you sing it. You, you could say, uh, tonight's program has arias from a few different operas. Handel's Alcina is one, that's a story of a sorceress who woos every man who sets foot on her island. And when she gets tired of them, she turns them into animals or rocks. (I think her last name was Moreau). Uh, Rodelinda is a queen who mourns her dead husband, but is he actually dead? And there are also some settings of the love story of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra.
John Schaefer: So, a lot going on on-stage here at Zankel Hall tonight. But there are two arias in particular that Jeanine De Bique is most excited about performing.
Jeanine De Bique: I have two favorites. One is “Ombre pallide” from Alcina and the other one is “Tra le procelle” which is the final aria. “Ombre pallide” for me, was really an interesting way that Handel made the description of Alcina's magic. And, you know, you don't need to stage that aria in a way. The aria in itself, the way that he's composed it is, is already staged and you get the feeling and the nuances of her speaking to a ghost. And I, at that time, had never heard Handel's music in that way. With “Tra le procelle” and it's just a complete rock song to me. It's the, it's the rock music of Baroque music at the time. The virtuosity of it is incredible and exciting and it makes everyone want to dance, even though she's not talking about something very nice. But the music is really great.
Jeff Spurgeon: Jeanine De Bique, the soprano vocalist in this evening. Uh, speaking about two of her favorite pieces on this program. We'll hear “Ombre pallide” right before intermission and “Tre la procelle” at the very end of the concert tonight.
But to start the concert tonight, we will hear Concerto Köln by themselves. They're a fine baroque orchestra that's been performing the music of this time period for three decades. We spoke with cellist and artistic director, Alexander Scherf about the ensemble's work with Jeanine De Bique.
Alexander Scherf: She really knows how to characterize those roles and she's really living the roles. And even though we, we did the, this program quite a lot in Europe, but still rehearsing with Jeanine is we, we, we keep reinventing the music. She's still looking for new colors, for new trills, and she loves rehearsing and so do we. So, every concert is different.
Jeff Spurgeon: Alexander Scherf speaking about working with Jeanine De Bique. That really is one of the interesting things about Baroque music: the ability to add all these details, these special ornaments. It means that every performance can be a little bit different, and every performance can be also uniquely personal. And so, we're looking forward to that in just a couple of minutes.
We have a sold-out crowd at, uh, Zankel Hall and, uh, the musicians are, uh, 20, 30 feet away from us, uh, near the stage door from where John and I are sitting right now. And they are all tuned up and ready to go. Have an ensemble of 15 or 16 musicians that will be heading out, uh, tonight to support Jeanine De Bique. But they will begin the program this evening with the opening music from Handel's opera, Partenope, uh, and Handel's opera, Partenope, is, uh, the Queen of Naples, and she's being pursued by three suitors the opera was not particularly, uh, uh, a serious opera. It was, had a more comic touch to it. And, uh, the overture is in three sections. And so, we'll get to reflect on some of the various moods that are going to appear in this opera, uh, from this overture that we'll hear from Concerto Köln.
John Schaefer: And at center stage, uh, pride of place, uh, here at Zankel Hall is a beautiful two-manual harpsichord flanked by a pair of cellos and a theorbo, which is a member, a bass member, of the loot family. Uh, an ungainly looking contraption, they can often be taller than the musician playing them but they're just, they have a wonderful sound. And in baroque music we talk a lot about the continuo, the, uh, the rhythm section.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah. That's what it is. Yeah.
John Schaefer: And, uh, that, that generally comprises the instruments that I just mentioned, the harpsichord and the theorbo and one or more of the cellos. So, we'll get a chance to hear this music by Handel to get things started. And interestingly, Jeff, um, in this program, we're listening to earlier Handel, so it's Handel with the umlaut over the a. It's Georg Friedrich Händel as opposed to George Frideric Handel, which became his name when he moved to London and settled there.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah, found his greatest success in that city over a period of decades and writing opera that was, uh, well it, it found the public taste. And as the public taste changed, Handel changed some of what he was doing as well.
John Schaefer: And so that is the time period that this program is drawn from. So, this is, this is pre-London famous Handel and a number of his contemporaries. And now you hear the applause for the members of Concerto Köln, representing Köln or Cologne Germany, about to play this overture, this sinfonia from Partenope by Handel.
MUSIC - Handel: Ouvertüre from Partenope d-Moll HWV 27
Jeff Spurgeon: Concerto Köln opening this concert from Carnegie Hall Live with the sinfonia from Handel's opera Partenope. Ensemble of 16 musicians on stage tonight. And, uh, next we're going to meet our soloist tonight, soprano Jeanine De Bique, stepping out on stage now to present two pictures of Rodelinda, a Queen under siege.
The first one that she'll sing is a composition of Carl-Heinrich Graun, who wrote his version of Rodelinda a little bit after Handel's much better known one. But here she comes, Rodelinda in two arias from Carnegie Hall Live.
MUSIC - Graun: Risolvere non oso from Rodelinda
Jeff Spurgeon: Music of Carl-Heinrich Graun, performed by Jeanine De Bique to open this concert from Zankel Hall. Performances with Concerto Köln, and now we continue with Handel.
MUSIC - Händel: Ritorna oh caro from Rodelinda
John Schaefer: Jeanine De Bique and two arias from two different operas about the same queen: Rodelinda. From two different composers you've just heard “Ritorna oh caro” from Handel's Rodelinda. Before that “Risolvere non oso” from Carl-Heinrich Graun’s Rodelinda. Concerto Köln at Zankel Hall. Now with music by a Leonardo Vinci.
MUSIC - Vinci: Sinfonia from La Rosmira fedele
Jeff Spurgeon: The sinfonia from Leonardo Vinci’s telling of the story of Partenope. We heard Handel's Partenope Overture at the beginning of this program. And, uh, well if you're having trouble keeping all of your Baroque heroines, uh, sorted out, that's just how it works in Baroque opera. Now, back on stage, joining Concerto Köln, soprano Jeanine De Bique with another aria from Carl-Heinrich Graun's Rodelinda. If you thought she was angry before, just wait till you hear her now.
MUSIC - Graun: L’empio rigor del fato from Rodelinda
Jeff Spurgeon: “L'empio rigor del fato,” an aria from Carl-Heinrich Graun's telling of the story of Rodelinda performed by Jeanine De Bique in her Zankel Hall debut with Concerto Cologne. And a very pleased crowd listening along with you for this concert from Carnegie Hall Live.
Jeanine De Bique: Good evening and, and thank you so much for joining us this evening and coming out in your numbers. You go, you guys look great. Thank you for supporting the album Mirrors and for supporting the orchestra and myself. The first piece that you heard this evening "Risolvere non oso" this is a US world premiere and, and you are the fourth audience to hear it this evening, so congratulations to you.
The next piece, um, that the next two pieces that we will do, um, the orchestra, um, will play a “Ballo,” which is from, uh, Alcina, and after that I will perform the aria "Ombre pallide" which is also Alcina's aria. So please enjoy.
MUSIC - Handel: Ballo: Entrée des songes agréables from Alcina
MUSIC - Handel: Ombre pallide from Alcina
Jeff Spurgeon: Soprano Jeanine De Bique and Concerto Cologne coming to you from Zankel Hall on this broadcast from Carnegie Hall Live. And there was Jeanine De Bique singing that famous moment from the opera Alcina. When the sorceress finds herself undone by love, "Perché, Perché,", she sings. "Why, why?" Well love upends everybody so it's no real surprise.
And with that, we've come to the end of this first half of this concert, bringing Jeanine De Bique to Zankel Hall for the first time. Backstage, I'm Jeff Spurgeon, alongside John Schaefer.
John Schaefer: And prior to that excerpt from Alcina, we also heard a, a Ballo, the, uh, the the pleasant dream sequence from Alcina.
Jeff Spurgeon: You hardly ever hear performers from the stage wishing the audience to have pleasant dreams.
John Schaefer: Yeah.
Jeff Spurgeon: But it happened in that moment, and they were sweet indeed.
John Schaefer: Back out on stage at Zankel Hall, Jeanine De Bique to, uh, bask in the applause of a very, very happy sold-out audience here at Zankel Hall. And that's just the first half of the program, and it has moved along, Jeff, at a good click.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes. Not much pause between these numbers. Alternating between performances by Concerto Köln and Jeanine De Bique, uh, doing some of these showstopper arias for soprano that come from the world of the Baroque Opera. This program based on Jeanine De Bique's album called Mirrors, which really is the same thing that, uh, that we're hearing tonight. Uh, reflections mostly upon works by Handel. But, uh, those same operatic characters in arias composed by contemporaries of Handel, other viewpoints of the same character, sometimes from the same libretto. Uh, sometimes the, uh, words of the opera are changed. The stories mixed up a little bit just to add variety of the thing that was part of the conversation that was happening in the cultural capitals of Europe in the 18th century when this music was the top of the game.
John Schaefer: And, uh, so we got to hear not just Handel but also a couple of pieces by Carl-Heinrich Graun, and if you are hearing that name for the first time during this broadcast, well join the club. Um, he was a, a very important figure in his day. You might know his five times great-grandson, the novelist, Vladimir Nabokov.
Jeff Spurgeon: Quite a pedigree.
John Schaefer: Yes. Um, and then of course we heard music by Leonardo Vinci. No relation whatsoever to Leonardo Da Vinci. Duh. As far as we can tell.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes, that's right. And, uh, this broadcast continues from Carnegie Hall Live. This is Classical New York, 105.9 FM and HD, WQXR Newark and 90.3 a, uh, 90.3 FM WQXW Ossining.
I'm Jeff Spurgeon alongside John Schaefer. Now we're joined by a couple of members of, uh, Concerto Köln. We are very pleased to welcome Alexander Scherf and Hannah Freihenstein to the microphones. Good evening. Welcome. Thank you so much for what you've done. We were, John and I were talking about, uh, Graun. Have you played a lot of his music before?
Alexander Scherf: Yes, we did actually. Uh, Concerto Köln was the first, um, orchestra to, um, record, uh, Cleopatra. This was with, uh, René Jacobs a long time ago. And we are very happy to have brought it back to the, to the concert live because it's, it's brilliant, uh, uh, music.
Jeff Spurgeon: How is it different from Handel?
Alexander Scherf: It is different in, in phrasing, in expression. It gives rather more to the early classical style. But, but still it’s, it’s, it’s a vivid Italian opera full of emotions.
Jeff Spurgeon: Jeanine De Bique has said that, um, that with Handel you kind of know where you’re going and with Graun you can’t be sure.
Alexander Scherf: He’s sort of in between, in between. But this is what makes it exciting.
John Schaefer: Uh, Hannah, speaking of excitement, I understand this is your first time in New York City.
Hannah Freihenstein: Yes, it is. Yeah. I’m very excited. I’m very excited and I really love it.
Jeff Spurgeon: Well, this, the backstage of Zankel Hall may not be the most richly appointed part of New York City. What else have you seen? What have you, what have you taken in?
Hannah Freihenstein: I think we arrived yesterday night. Uh, no, yesterday, during, during the day. We came from Pittsburgh. We had a concert there, and so we had an invitation to a reception from, um, uh, the Consulate, German Consulate, which was very nice. So, I only had this morning and I had a really nice walk through the city and, uh, saw like the Empire State Building and things like that, and it's very nice. Yeah.
John Schaefer: Alexander, you and Jeanine De Bique have recorded this program, essentially. Where did the idea for this come from?
Alexander Scherf: So, I don't, don't take the credit for myself. This was, um, Yannis François, a friend of Jeanine's, and he himself, Yannis, is a, is a singer and musicologist, and he did the research work to find this exclusive program. And the, the idea of the Mirrors comes from him.
John Schaefer: Right. And the idea that we're getting these refracted, prismatic views of these characters of Rodelinda and Alcina through these different, so it's an interesting concept and I'm, in retrospect, a little surprised that no one's ever done this sort of thing before.
Alexander Scherf: Yeah, you're quite right. Um, I find it's a brilliant, um, opportunity to combine those well-known Handel pieces with less unknown and re unknown repertoire by his contemporaries, because we always search for something new and to to, to bring it back to life.
John Schaefer: Yeah. And what is the, um, just the practical, the logistical nightmare I suppose, of traveling with baroque instruments? I mean, are you playing with gut strings? I mean, how, how period is your period practice?
Alexander Scherf: It is really period. Really pure, no doubt about that. And traveling with gut strings, I mean, they're very sensitive to hum-humidity, but it's not bad at this time of the year. I mean, traveling to South America would be a much more, a nightmare.
Jeff Spurgeon: And you didn't have, you haven't had rain? Um, well I guess there was rain yesterday.
Alexander Scherf: Well, it was very rainy in, in California, I have to say. But really raining in Southern California.
Jeff Spurgeon: Right. So, it just, you have to tune a lot longer. It takes a lot longer to,
Hannah Freihenstein: Yes, but we did our best now.
Jeff Spurgeon: Well, no, it sounded, it sounded wonderful. Um, how long does it take you to, to, um, when you sit in a space, a new hall like Zankel Hall, how long does it take you to feel comfortable and how do you do that? Do you send somebody out in the audience to listen to yourselves. How does it work?
Hannah Freihenstein: We had some, um, like colleagues, um, going out like, and not playing at the moment and, and listening that the balance was good and everything. But the hall is actually, I find it quite amazing because it's like there's so much wood and, and I have the feeling on the stage it like becomes a part of it. It's very nice to play and it's very warm. It has a really warm sound even whilst playing. And that's not the case in all the halls. Sometimes you feel really not that good on stage, although it sounds good outside and here it's, it's very pleasant, I think. Don't you think so?
Alexander Scherf: Yes, I agree completely.
Jeff Spurgeon: Everyone will be pleased to hear that, especially the people here at Carnegie Hall. They'll be very delighted to hear that. I notice in your ensemble that, um, that you have uh, two cellos and you brought a bassoon along. Now is that dictated in the music or is that just a decision to sort of beef up the bottom end of the continuo a little bit?
Alexander Scherf: Yeah, this is, um, I think it's necessary for the um, aria which is to come the "Che sento? se pieta" by Handel, the Cleopatra. He plays the obbligato bassoon; he plays a very nice tenor line on top of the bass line. You will hear that. And of course, it gives, it gives a nice, uh, crunchy, uh, sound to the, to the bass section.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah. And what are the other projects that Concerto Köln has? You're wrapping up this, this particular tour with Jeanine De Bique. What else are you guys cooking up? Because you're a busy ensemble.
Alexander Scherf: We are, luckily, we survived the pandemic, and we are back to, to the international stage and luckily, we got support not only by our sponsor but also by the government of North-Rhine Westphalia. And, uh, we, we enjoy touring with Jeanine and luckily there's some more concerts coming up in France and believe it or not, um, Concerto Köln as a period Baroque Orchestra is embarking on a Wagner, Richard Wagner project with Kent Nagano. So, we already did the Rheingold on period instruments back in, in 2009, and this is coming back.
Um, so this is really something extraordinary. We did it with period instruments from the late 19th century with a lower pitch of course. (Mm-hmm). Which, um, makes the, the singers really free freely and, and, um, they're enjoying themselves and we make them not only sing, but also speak like recitativo. This is what Wagner was asking for. So, this is, um, quite something, um, pioneering we are doing, uh, with Kent Nagano.
Jeff Spurgeon: Did that come from Nagano or from the ensemble?
Alexander Scherf: This was actually an, an alcoholic idea and, uh, but we, we have brought it to life.
John Schaefer: Children, stay in school.
Jeff Spurgeon: That's a wonderful description, huh? How many great ideas in the world are alcoholic ideas? That's a wonderful idea. I've never heard that description before.
John Schaefer: You know, we, we've seen a lot of, uh, period instruments actually performing a lot of contemporary music. Has Concerto Köln gone that route?
Alexander Scherf: Yeah, we did that occasionally. Yeah. There were pieces, um, composed for us and we like to combine the, I think the, the music of the Baroque era is quite, um, open to weird combinations.
John Schaefer: Well, it's a simpatico vocal style too, you know, that kind of not a wide operatic vibrato. So, you have early music singers are very often contemporary music singers as well.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah, I think we do see that a lot. Um, um, Hannah, how did you fall into this music? Because this is a special corner of the orchestral world, this period instrument business.
Hannah Freihenstein: Yeah. Um, I discovered this the few, like, quite some years ago, and I, um, at the moment, uh, no, at first, um, I wasn't like that excited about it. I heard some things that I didn't like so much, but then I heard one CD, and I was totally blown away. And I was like, well, whoa, that's so cool. I wanna do that. I wanna try it out. And, and it has,
John Schaefer: which CD was that?
Hannah Freihenstein: It was actually, um, a cello CD with, uh, sonatas, um, from Klein, Jacob Klein. Mm-hmm. And, um, played by the Kristin von der Goltz and I totally loved that CD. So, I that...
Jeff Spurgeon: What is it about that, what is it about this sound world that we find so appealing?
Hannah Freihenstein: Um, I think it's much more human in a way because we have those gut strings. We don't have steel, so the gut is, is a human, also a human part, although we don't play with human guts. And, um, it makes this very soft sound that is very soothing to the ears. Um, if you're playing in tune and, um, I think that makes, it can create a lot of atmospheres that is more intimate than the, the steel sound.
And actually, um, playing it, it, like this opened, it gave me so much understanding for some pieces. Like for example, the Beethoven cello sonatas I was always avoiding playing them because I couldn't understand like the, why is here forte, where is there piano? It doesn't, didn't match with the piano part. If, if you play that act it like that, it doesn't work.
But if you play it on period instruments, all the, like, the dynamics that make totally sense because you have the gut strings, they have the, the Hammerklavier, and then everything falls into place and, and suddenly it's like, whoa.
Jeff Spurgeon: That's what so many advocates of that kind of playing say, is that some the music makes more sense when you use those early instruments. Well, it's a wonderful atmosphere that you create with this ensemble, for sure.
John Schaefer: Hannah Freihenstein and Alexander Scherf from Concerto Köln, thank you for spending part of your intermission with us and we really look forward to the second half.
Alexander Scherf: Yeah, thanks for having us.
Hannah Freihenstein: Thank you so much. And thank you for listening.
Jeff Spurgeon: Members of Concerto Köln with us on this broadcast from Carnegie Hall Live. We are in Zankel Hall at Carnegie, backstage. I'm Jeff Spurgeon alongside John Schaefer and we're at intermission, but we will have more from Concerto Köln and more from Soprano Jeanine De Bique singing some of these marvelous, very challenging vocal works from the Baroque era.
John Schaefer: Right now, though, let's hear a little Baroque music for the mandolin. In March of 2015, the extraordinary mandolinist Avi Avital came to the Greene Space, which is our ground floor performance venue, to play with the Vienna Baroque Orchestra. Here he is playing, uh, a movement of the concerto. Well, maybe we'll hear all three movements of the Concerto for Lute in D Major. Pretty famous piece by Vivaldi arranged here for mandolin.
MUSIC - Vivaldi: Concerto for Lute in D Major
Jeff Spurgeon: Music of Antonio Vivaldi, WQXR from Avi Avital and the Venice Baroque Orchestra. A performance made in the Jerome L Greene performance space at our studios a few years ago. But now we are back at Zankel Hall. I'm Jeff Spurgeon, John Schaefer by my side, backstage at, uh, the subterranean performance space of Carnegie Hall. For a while, it was a music studio. For many, many years, it was a movie theater in New York City. And, uh, what has it been 25 years now, do you think?
John Schaefer: It hasn't quite been 25 years. Um, but it was interesting to hear Hannah Freihenstein of the Concerto Köln talking about the warmth of this place. There's a lot of wood. There is a lot of wood, but there are also little spots on the wall that have been left open to the bedrock, the Manhattan bedrock. And so, you can actually tell that we are underground when you're in Zankel Hall, if you know where to look. The, uh, applause is for the members of Concerto Köln as they file back out on stage here at Zankel, the, the mid-size of the three halls here at Carnegie.
And they will soon be joined by Jeanine De Bique, and we’ll hear two songs from two different operas- one by Gennaro Manna, Italian composer, and one by Handel- that will present two different views of the character Deidamia, who falls in love with Achilles and then loses him to the the business there in Troy.
MUSIC - Handel: Rodrigo
Jeff Spurgeon: Concerto Köln performing a suite of dances from an early Handel opera, Rodrigo, concluding with a work that, uh, I've never heard of, of before a “matelot” a sort of, uh, tuned associated with sailors. As far as I can tell, I'm not sure, but I've never seen that form before. Uh, we are about to, uh, uh, meet on stage once again, soprano Jeanine De Bique, for some of her selections as we prepare to continue this concert by Concerto Köln. And here she comes now with a pair of arias sung by Deidamia, a woman who has frankly been burned by a very handsome fellow who's come. She's fallen in love with him, and now he's leaving her, Achilles. He's a bit of a heel, frankly, in these operas. Jeanine De Bique now with Concerto Köln, from Carnegie Hall Live.
Jeanine De Bique: That part we didn't practice. (audience laughter)
MUSIC - Gennaro Manna: "Chi può dir che rea son io” from Achille in Sciro
Jeff Spurgeon: Jeanine De Bique performing an aria from Gennaro Manna's Achille in Sciro, Achilles on Skyros, the figure of Deidamia lamenting the loss of the man, the great warrior with whom she's fallen in love. Jeanine De Bique and Concerto Köln in this performance in Zankel Hall. And now words from Jeanine De Bique.
Jeanine De Bique: Um, that aria was also a US world premiere, and that would be the fourth time that we performed that piece in the United States on tour. Also, the very first time that we performed that piece since the recording of the album. So, congratulations to you.
MUSIC - Handel: “M’hai resa infelice” from Deidamia
John Schaefer: Jeanine De Bique with Concerto Köln at Zankel Hall and music by Handel from his opera Deidamia, telling the story of a young lady who falls in love with Achilles and when he goes off to war, laments his leaving and then ultimately ends up cursing him and hoping that he drowns in the stormy seas. We are...
Jeff Spurgeon: Charity is so often in short supply in Baroque opera. Just doesn't happen a lot.
John Schaefer: Concerto Köln will now play more music by Handel, in which he repurposes a melody from his opera Radamisto into this Passacaille, part of his trio Sonata in G Major Opus five, number four.
MUSIC - Handel: Passacaille from Sonata in G Major
MUSIC - Handel: “Che sento? ...Se pietà di me non senti cleopatra” Recitative and Aria by Cleopatra from Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Jeff Spurgeon: Soprano, Jeanine De Bique and Concerto Köln in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall with an aria from Handel’s Opera Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Julius Caesar. That was Cleopatra singing as Caesar has run away, she's just fallen in love with him, and he is run away to fight her brother and it's a misery. You heard the misery in the sounds of her, of her words. And now ballet music from Handel's Ariodante
MUSIC - Handel: Ballo from Ariodante
MUSIC - Carl-Heinrich Graun: "Tra le procelle assorto” from Cesare e Cleopatre
Jeff Spurgeon: Music of Carl Heinrich Graun from his opera about Caesar and Cleopatra. "Tra le procelle assorto" in the midst of the Tempest, Cleopatra is in charge in that aria sung by Jeanine De Bique, the Trinidadian Soprano making her Zankel Hall debut in this performance with Concerto Köln, a broadcast you're hearing from Carnegie Hall Live. Backstage at Zankel Hall. I'm Jeff Spurgeon, alongside John Schaefer.
John Schaefer: And the members of Concerto Köln standing and rising to accept the applause along with Jeanine De Bique. She, uh, performed just a few minutes before that in the role of Cleopatra in Handel's Julius Caesar in Egypt. And that was a very different, uh, kind of performance. That was the love-lorn Cleopatra. In this final piece from Carl-Heinrich Graun's opera about Cleopatra and Caesar, she is in her regal pub and, and De Bique really seemed to be enjoying herself on stage.
Jeff Spurgeon: This is the aria that she described as just a rock song at the beginning of this program. So, it is clearly one of the things that well suits her fabulously and that she clearly takes a great deal of pleasure in. She is a, uh, wonderfully vital and excited perform, uh, performer on stage. Lots of wonderful facial expression, sharing the emotions of the characters she’s singing, and, uh, now she’s stepping to the microphone.
Jeanine De Bique: We did it. We have been to three different cities almost performing night after night to get here. And being here with you is one of the most momentous moments in my life, and I’m sure I speak on behalf of the orchestra as well. Thank you for appreciating this music and thank you for appreciating the fact that this is my first album with one of the oldest Baroque orchestras.
And without them and numerous people that, um, were instrumental in making this album happen, um, it, I, I wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be here. So, every one of them, some of them are in the audience tonight. Um, I, we are grateful. I am very grateful to you and, um, I also would like to thank Yannis François, who is not here. He’s in Paris at the moment, but he is the mastermind of the concept of this album. So, thank you Yannis François.
Now, we have a couple of encores for you, but you know, you feel free to stay or leave. But, um, our first encore that we’d like to do is, um, a piece by Handel, an aria by Handel from the opera Il Trionfo, "Tu del ciel". Now, um, I've, I've, I've spoken about this many times, um, and I'm such a victim of it as well, but we are in this day and age of media, social media, and sometimes we let it consume us, and also, not only the social media, but of course the, the, the way that we just are as people now. We must not forget how important it is, what is on in the inside. Maybe most of you know that, but this is just a gentle reminder and to remind those that are around you about that. Bellezza is this character. Bellezza means beauty, and she's consumed with that. But at the end of the opera, she recognizes that it's not so important. It's more important to give her heart back to something that's bigger and greater than her. And that's what we tried to do this evening tonight with this album, presenting it to you. I would like you; I invite you to listen to the simplicity of this aria. Um, I don't do any ornaments because I love the way that Handel made it perfect as it is. So, please enjoy.
MUSIC - Handel: "Tu del ciel" from Il trionfo
Jeff Spurgeon: Jeanine De Bique singing an aria from Handel's Oratorio, the triumph of time and truth. It is, uh, a song of a heart being given up to God in humility sung by Jeanine De Bique with Concerto Köln in her Zankel Hall debut on this broadcast from Carnegie Hall Live. And now the members of Concerto Köln rise to, uh, receive the audience's appreciation together.
John Schaefer: And it looks like we're going to, uh, get a few more words at the microphone from our soloist, Jeanine De Bique.
Jeanine De Bique: This next one is for everybody from Trinidad and Tobago. (audience cheers and laughs). I'm telling you, they can't behave wherever they're going, but I love it. I love it. Um, this is a calypso, which has a folk song element. It's called Morena Osha by the late André Tanker. And, um, it was arranged by Mr. Michael Zephyrine, who the lives here in New York City, um, who all, whom also has his own Steelband Baroque orchestra. And he's here in the audience tonight. You'll meet him afterwards. Um, and I'm so grateful that the orchestra has agreed, uh, to play this with, with, with me. So, it's a really great international relations connection happening here on the stage here in New York. So please enjoy.
MUSIC - André Tanker: Morena Osha (arr. Michael Zephyrine)
John Schaefer: The Trinidadian Soprano, Jeanine De Bique, performing a bit of calypso from her homeland by the late André Tanker, Morena Osha. I think that is the first time, Jeff, I've ever heard a European-style Baroque orchestra playing on period instruments performing calypso music. Beautifully done though, isn't it? It's very clever arrangement.
Jeff Spurgeon: A beautiful song by a famous Trinidadian musician, André Tanker, died at the turn of the 21st Century. He was a popular musician, and yes, beautiful song and beautifully done on period instruments as you said.
John Schaefer: Jeanine De Bique has walked off the stage momentarily but the applause I am sure will bring her back out and here she is.
Jeff Spurgeon: Now she and Concerto Köln on their feet, a bouquet of flowers brought to her from the audience as well, for this Zankel Hall debut of this young soprano from Trinidad.
John Schaefer: With the veteran German early music ensemble. And uh their album together, Mirrors, really a feat of musicology, but more important, of music making. And um the period instruments in their element performing this 18th century music by Handel and some of his far less familiar contemporaries. And Jeanine De Bique performing all of them with gusto and with real presence on stage. And now, once again, at center stage, bowing to the audience. Sold out crowd here at Zankel Hall, as you might expect. And obviously, very enthusiastic. And she’s asking if they want one more song. Let’s see what happens next.
Jeanine De Bique: This is on the album, it's "Mi restano le lagrime" by Broschi and, um, it's also a world premiere.
I will say one thing, this is from Broschi's Alcina, but the character Morgana sings it, uh, whereas in Alcina by Handel, "Mi restano le lagrime" is actually sung by Alcina. Same text, different character.
MUSIC - Broschi: "Mi restano le lagrime" from L'isola d'Alcina
John Schaefer: Once again, Jeanine De Bique and Concerto Köln. And another encore on stage at Zankel Hall by Riccardo Broschi, another 18th century composer, Italian composer. "Mi restano le lagrime" from his opera about the character of Alcina, whom we met earlier in the program, in the opera of that name by Handel, and that's part of the point of this program Jeff has been the creation or the following of connections.
Jeff Spurgeon: And the reflections.
John Schaefer: Yeah.
Jeff Spurgeon: One composer thinking of a character in one way, another composer considering those same characters, those same stories from his own compositional ideas. And now Concerto Köln and Jeanine De Bique, hand in hand on stage for one final bow. And that at last brings this concert to its conclusion.
John Schaefer: It's been a pretty generous helping of music. Uh, it, it felt like this was a band that had somewhere to be, you know, they played at a good clip and then we could see why, because they wanted some time to play their encores for us. And, uh, we got a very generous selection of them at the end of this event here at Zankel Hall. Once again, Jeanine De Bique and Concerto Köln playing some of the music from the recording Mirrors that they've released together. And, um, presenting it, uh, in the, the, the second of the three halls, the middle hall here, the middle-sized hall at Carnegie, uh, which turns out, Jeff, to be a really great place for this kind of music.
Jeff Spurgeon: Small ensembles, uh, can, can make a wonderful impression in Zankel Hall. It's absolutely right.
John Schaefer: And, and it's, you know, there is, as, as some of the members of Concerto Köln were telling us at intermission, there was a kind of a sonic warmth to this place that is very, I would think, very inviting for period instrument players whose instruments do not have the kind of carrying power of modern orchestral instruments.
Jeff Spurgeon: And yet as the violinist, uh, or I'm sorry, one of the cellists, uh, told us that in intermission there's a warmth in this hall and that that is part of the sound, uh, and the idea of period instrument performance is the slightly more human scaled, perhaps, sound of those instruments. And, uh, somehow a, a little, a, a little greater connection just to, uh, the idea of one human being to another with the music.
John Schaefer: Which is, which is a curiously ironic thing to say about this music, especially the pieces that we've been hearing because the people singing, the characters are all queens and empresses and princesses and, you know, they’re, it’s not very, they’re not people of the street is what I’m saying.
Jeff Spurgeon: Well, that, and that development came along a little bit later in opera, but when the, when the form began, it was an exploration of mythical characters, of biblical characters, um, and it wasn’t until, uh, years later, that, uh, that the idea of ordinary people came in. Uh, but those operas are equally powerful as well. And the communication that happens in Baroque opera is, uh, the, the florid notes, the profusion of flying notes. It's a way of communicating in motion, of, uh, that is peculiar to this particular time period in music.
John Schaefer: And it was also an attempt to take these larger-than-life figures and humanize them. You know, so you, you get Cleopatra, you know, this regal figure, you know, basically tearing her heart open because Caesar is about to leave. He’s going off to war. So, you know, there, there is this curious interplay of the, the human scale and these outsized characters that we heard Jeanine De Bique singing on stage here. Um, we are backstage John Schaefer, alongside Jeff Spurgeon and being joined now by Jeanine De Bique. Congratulations!
Jeff Spurgeon: Congratulations indeed.
Jeanine De Bique: Thank you so much.
Jeff Spurgeon: How did it feel out there tonight? You seemed to be having a pretty good time.
Jeanine De Bique: I was, I think maybe around the second half when I finally got over my nerves, but, um, hopefully that didn't come across in the voice. Um, but I had a very good time tonight, and I'm so happy that we were able to bring the album to the United States and to bring it to New York for the first time, so it was a success.
John Schaefer: It was fun to watch you. I mean, rather than just kind of stand and deliver, all of the performances, they were genuine performances and,
Jeanine De Bique: well, thank you.
John Schaefer: It made me think, oh, well she's probably performed these operas, and then I thought nobody's performed these operas. So how did you decide on that sort of thing?
Jeanine De Bique: Well, three of the operas I did perform in Rodelinda. All the Handel, um, Cleopatra and Alcina, the others, I mean, they're, they're basically the same character. So, for me, I, and also the same energy, the same, sometimes the same text, sometimes the same position in the, in the opera itself, where the aria sits. And so, for me it was, um, an easy crossover. What's more challenging is, um, understanding the composer, the different composers, um, way of doing, let's say coloratura and all the virtuosity in their arias, um, which is very different from Handel. So that's the challenge. And um, I hope I accomplished that.
John Schaefer: I would say job well done. I mean,
Jeanine De Bique: Thank you.
John Schaefer: Some of these women are very angry and, and
Jeanine De Bique: Yeah, they're mostly, the arias we chose yeah, they're, they're mostly upset, very upset.
John Schaefer: And I, I, I'm sure you know, I, I don't know how you felt, Jeff. I was like, I would be afraid to be on this woman's wrong side. And, and I'm not sure whether I meant the character or the actor singing the role, which is
Jeanine De Bique: Oh, wow.
Jeff Spurgeon: Well, opera is all about leaving the boring parts of life aside for a while, and just dealing with the, uh, with the interesting and strong parts of it.
Jeanine De Bique: Well, I think that for me, I don't separate my current, my life, my modern-day life from these, um, from these characters. Obviously
Jeff Spurgeon: Really?!
Jeanine De Bique: No, because
Jeff Spurgeon: No. I just wanna step back a little bit you having said that. A little concerned.
Jeanine De Bique: No, no, no, no. I don't get that angry. I don't get that upset.
Jeff Spurgeon: Thank you.
Jeanine De Bique: Um, but, uh, no, but I mean, the, the subtext of it, I can take from moments in my life that, that can, um, help to portray the, the arias, um, the way that I would like them to. And, um, it's, it's been really fun understanding the characters and understanding their position and how they handle the stories because, um, it, uh, it actually helps me make some better decisions, uh, in life, which is very interesting. So, it's very relatable. Um, being a modern-day woman with these Baroque heroines.
Jeff Spurgeon: That sounds like a book, life lessons from Baroque Opera by Jeanine De Bique. We'll look forward to that. How did, how did you find this music? You grew up in Trinidad and so was classical music in your life, uh, from the beginning. Uh, and uh, how did, how did it come to you and when did it catch fire within you?
Jeanine De Bique: Um, well, I grew up with, this type of music around me all the time. I was, um, uh, I, I, I'm raised in the Anglican Church and, um, it, we have hymnals, and those books have scores in them. So, it, it's, I was surrounded by this type of counterpoint and from, since I'm a baby, I, if I could remember my grandmother singing to me when we were in church.
So, um, it wasn't anything abnormal. And also, my country is very diverse and cultural, uh, uh, sorry, culturally diverse. So, um, we are able to, when, when we're at school, we are in choir and we're able to sing both folk song and classical music that they introduced to us from, since I'm 3, 4, 5 years old. So, none of it is, is, um, strange or abnormal to me at all.
Jeff Spurgeon: It's been, it's been with you from the very beginning. But when did you decide to focus on this unusual and very challenging repertoire?
Jeanine De Bique: Um, well, when I was at school, um, my wonderful teacher one day in a lesson told me when I was performing, when I was, uh, singing for her, um, Semele's aria "Oh sleep," and she told me, this is something you need to record. I think you need to do a whole album. And at that time, I didn't really pay much attention to her. I just thought she was giving me a sweet compliment, you know, trying to make me feel better. But she's not really that type of person. She, she gives compliments where compliments are due. And so, she really meant that and she wasn't wrong.
And, um, it was very natural to me to sing that kind, type of music at school. And I was always given it. Handel was my main, um, my main point of reference for Baroque music. And so, um, moving into the other, um, other comp, other composers, other contemporaries, uh, was a challenge, but not impossible. So, I'm grateful for that.
Jeff Spurgeon: And you're taking this program with, uh, Concerto Köln to some European venues?
Jeanine De Bique: Yes. Well, we've been around Europe for a little while since the album came out in 2021. This is our first time across the pond, and we're going back to parts of Germany, parts of France, um, I think in Holland and, um, even Spain. So, we have a, a full schedule ahead of us.
Jeff Spurgeon: And it's a little unfair to ask you this without having prepped, but what's next for you? What, what, what do you have in the future?
Jeanine De Bique: No, that's fair. Um, after this, uh, I take a flight to Zurich to, uh, work on a new contemporary piece called Love and Violence, Lessons in Love and Violence by Sir George Benjamin, um, at Zurich Opera. I also go to Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra to do Bach's St. Matthew Passion. Um, and then I will be going to Salzburg Festival during the summer. And then I'm on tour with the album and I'm recitaling in concerts. So, there's, um, I'm not getting any sleep.
John Schaefer: It's just, it's very telling that you mentioned George Benjamin is just one of a long list of things because people who know his music, he is not part of a long list of anything.
Jeanine De Bique: I know. And that's a very, that's very specific. Very, um, in one category by itself. Yeah. So, I'm actually learning that while doing this is not impossible, and also it helps the Baroque music to learn, um, his, his opera, um, keeping it clean, keeping it, um, uh, in this particular style. It's quite helpful. So yeah.
John Schaefer: It was wonderful to hear you tonight, wonderful to hear the, the Calypso a little bit.
Jeanine De Bique: Yeah. Thank you.
John Schaefer: You got a great rise out of the audience here.
Jeanine De Bique: Yes. Thank you.
John Schaefer: And, uh, Jeanine De Bique our soloist tonight. Thank you so much for spending some time with us.
Jeanine De Bique: Thank you so much for having me.
Jeff Spurgeon: That concludes this broadcast of Carnegie Hall Live that, uh, brought you Jeanine De Bique and Concerto Köln in a presentation of the music from her album, Mirrors, which we are pleased to have presented to you tonight. With thanks to Clive Gillinson and the staff of Carnegie Hall. WQXR's team includes engineers, George Wellington, Irene Trudel, Noriko Okabe, and Bill Siegmund.
John Schaefer: Our production team includes Lauren Purcell-Joiner and Laura Boyman. I'm John Schaefer.
Jeff Spurgeon: And I'm Jeff Spurgeon. Carnegie Hall Live is a co-production of Carnegie Hall and WQXR in New York.
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