Some of the greatest singers of the current generation sing Handel. This isn’t meant to be a controversial statement — and it is one that has been true for many generations. This week in Chicago showcases artists with international careers who have built their reputations on singing Handel as well as the hometown team celebrating the span of Handel’s career in which he sharpened his skills to become a master composer for the voice.
That hometown team is , of course, Third Coast Baroque. A lot of music history ink has been spilled describing how the three cantatas on TCB’s Wonder Women program were composed between 1707 and 1709, when Handel was thirstily drinking in Italian influences in Rome. The music in these works is adventurous with grand emotions on an intimate level. The solo Italian cantatas of Handel are feats of vocalism and drama, like miniature operas. TCB assigns the most sensational cantata, La Lucrezia, full of rage, shame, and despair, to Erica Schuller — one of Haymarket Opera Company’s proven singing actresses. Armida Abbandonata will be sung by Nathalie Colas, who has demonstrated her gift for laments with Third Coast Baroque. The heartbreaking “Ah! crudele e pur ten vai” could rival any continuo aria in Handel’s oeuvre. The death of Agrippina, Agrippina condotta a morire, is left to the crystal-toned, technically accomplished Kaitlin Foley who has few rivals in Chicago for versatility and musicianship. Wonder Women will be performed twice: Friday evening in Evanston, and Saturday early evening at Chicago Temple. If you love great singing, if you are passionate about early music, or if you want to support an organization that is on track to put Chicago on the map for historically performed performances of music from the High Baroque, this is the concert to attend this weekend.
Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago accomplishes another coup assembling the performers and composers for the 2019 Collaborative Works Festival. Three different programs (Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday), feature new works for voice and piano or voice and chamber ensemble, across three different venues, by living composers affiliated with Chicago, by other American composers, and by international composers, respectively. Anthony Roth Costanzo, as innovating an artist and genre-defying as they come, is joined by Lauren Snouffer and Nicholas Phan as the featured singers on all three programs, who all, not coincidentally, have a lot of Handel on their CV’s. Be sure to go to CAIC’s website for all the details. And watch the wonderfully weird videos on which Anthony Roth Costanzo collaborated for his album ARC.
The fall opera season begins post haste. Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park is on Friday and features one of VAC’s Best of 2018 artists, mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa. There is also that Maria Callas, the hologram, In Concert on Saturday. Callas is obviously a favorite of VAC, but I have no notion of the potential quality of that experience. Finally, soprano Jessie Oliver reprises a role that put her on the Best of 2016 list: Magda in The Consul. This time Oliver will perform the tragic heroine with Transgressive Theatre-Opera in a benefit for immigrant relief, also on Saturday.