Handel & Haydn Society Gives First Tanglewood Performance in Two Decades

Ensemble Returns to Tanglewood August 9 Performing Purcell’s
The Fairy Queen

Wednesday, August 9, 2017, at 8 p.m.
Seiji Ozawa Hall – Lenox, MA

One of North America’s oldest and most established musical societies, the Boston-based Handel and Haydn Society (H + H) returns to the world-renowned Tanglewood Festival in the Berkshires to perform The Fairy Queen by Purcell.  H +H is returning to the acclaimed summer festival for the first time since 1997, where they had performed works led by baroque violinist Stanley Ritchie and the beloved late mezzo-soprano, Lorraine Hunt (Lieberson).  The H + H Society, known for their practice of honoring historical performance accurately and artistically, is led by artistic director Harry Christophers who will conduct the comedic work.

Based on the wedding play scene in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Purcell realization, which was lost posthumously and rediscovered in the early twentieth century, is a masque reflecting the wit, comedy, secrecy, and mystery in the timeless play, with an adapted script, written by Jeremy Sams (creator of the Metropolitan Opera’s The Enchanted Island).  The Fairy Queen features H + H’s masterful Baroque instrumentalists, nine soloists, a chorus, and narration by classically-trained actress and stage director Antonia Christophers – founder of the UK children’s theater company Box Tale Soup, and known for her work on Game of Thrones.  Ms. Christophers is the daughter of Harry Christophers, and this production marks both the first time the father and daughter will perform together, as well as the first time Maestro Christophers conducts The Fairy Queen with the Handel and Haydn Society.

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For 200 years the Handel and Haydn Society (H+H) has enriched life and influenced culture by bringing vocal and instrumental music to America. Founded in Boston in 1815, H+H is considered the oldest continuously performing arts organization in the United States and celebrated its Bicentennial in 2015 with special concerts and initiatives to mark two centuries of music making. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Harry Christophers, H+H performs at the highest level of excellence and also provides engaging, accessible, and broadly inclusive music education in Greater Boston and beyond.

H+H’s Orchestra and Chorus are internationally recognized for historically informed performances of Baroque and Classical music. In addition to its local subscription series, tours, and broadcast performances, H+H reaches a worldwide audience through ambitious recordings including the critically acclaimed Haydn, Vol. 1 (2013), the best-selling Joy to the World: An American Christmas (2013), Handel’s Messiah (2014), recorded live under Christopher’s direction at Symphony Hall, and Haydn’s The Creation and Haydn, Vol. 2 in 2016.

H+H’s esteemed history began in 1815 when a group of middle-class Bostonians formed a choral society to bring the best music of Europe to their growing American city. They named the organization after two composers—Handel and Haydn—to represent both the old music of the 18th century and what was then the new music of the 19th century. In the first decades of its existence, H+H gave the US premieres of many iconic works including Handel’s Messiah (1818), Haydn’s Creation (1819), Verdi’s Requiem (1878), and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (1879).

In 1985, H+H established the Karen S. and George D. Levy Education Program and now reaches over 10,000 children each year through public school visits, chorus partnerships, in-school music instruction, and the Vocal Arts Program that includes six youth choruses. H+H also maintains partnerships with higher education institutions and  presents free concerts and lectures at local libraries, community centers, and museums.

About Harry Christophers, Conductor and Artistic Director
The 2016-2017 Season marks Harry Christophers’ eighth as Artistic Director of the Handel and Haydn Society. Since his appointment in 2009, Christophers and H+H have embarked on an ambitious artistic journey toward the organization’s 200th anniversary with a showcase of works premiered in the U.S. by H+H since 1815, broad education programming, community outreach activities and partnerships, and the release of a series of recordings on the CORO label.

Christophers is known internationally as founder and conductor of the UK-based choir and period-instrument ensemble The Sixteen. He has directed The Sixteen throughout Europe, America, Australia, and the Far East, gaining a distinguished reputation for his work in Renaissance, Baroque, and 20th- and 21st-century music. In 2000, he instituted The Choral Pilgrimage, a tour of British cathedrals from York to Canterbury. He has recorded over 120 titles for which he has won numerous awards, including the coveted Gramophone Award for Early Music and the prestigious Classical Brit Award in 2005 for his disc Renaissance. His CD IKON was nominated for a 2007 Grammy and his second recording of Handel’s Messiah on The Sixteen’s own label CORO won the prestigious MIDEM Classical Award 2009.

In 2009, Christophers received one of classical music’s highest accolades, the Classic FM Gramophone Awards Artist of the Year Award, and The Sixteen won the Baroque Vocal Award for Handel Coronation Anthems, a recording that also received a 2010 Grammy Award nomination as did Palestrina, Vol. 3 in 2014. From 2007, he has featured with The Sixteen in the highly successful BBC television series Sacred Music, presented by actor Simon Russell Beale. The latest hour- long program, devoted to Monteverdi’s Vespers, will be screened in 2015.

Harry Christophers is Principal guest conductor of the Granada Symphony Orchestra and a regular guest conductor with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. In October 2008, Christophers was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Leicester. He is an Honorary Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford , of the Royal Welsh Academy for Music and Drama, and was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2012 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

About Antonia Christophers, Actress
Antonia graduated with a BA Honours degree in Drama and Theatre Studies from Royal Holloway, University of London. She then went on to train as an actor, and gained an MA in Classical Acting from Central School of Speech and Drama.

Prior to forming her own theatre company, her performing credits included the following: Theatre: Elaine in The Graduate, Buxton Opera House and UK tour; Anne Prospere in Divine Marquis at the Barons Court Theatre, London; Louise Kendal in My Cousin Rachel at the theatres of Aldeburgh and Southwold; Juliet in Romeo and Juliet at the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield. Television: Mhaegen in HBO’s, Game of Thrones; Miss Peters in the BBC drama, The Hour.

In 2012 she co-founded award winning theatre company Box Tale Soup, and since then she has been creating and performing their critically acclaimed productions. Box Tale Soup have toured extensively throughout the UK and abroad including, the Lyric Hammersmith, the Little Angel Theatre, Wigmore Hall and Wilton’s Music Hall, London; The Broad Stage, California; Ursulinensäle, Austria and LongFu Theatre, Beijing. The company have received two commissions from the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham and look forward to their third commission later this year. They have just premiered their latest adaptation, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was commissioned by the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA. Highlights for 2016 included a collaboration with world-renowned choral ensemble, The Sixteen on a version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with music from Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, and a collaboration with Music Action International’s refugee music collective, Stone Flowers on a piece of new writing inspired by their experiences.