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A Magnificent Season

Last weekend Magnificat completed our 18th season with three performances of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers in three beautiful venues for three large and appreciative audiences. We still have performances at the Berkeley Festival and a CD release party at Yoshi’s in June, but it is a good time to reflect on what has been Magnificat’s most successful and rewarding season yet.

Above all, we thank the musicians (full list below) who devoted so much love, devotion and talent to each of Magnificat’s projects this season.

In October the season began with performances of Francesca Caccini’s La Liberazione di Ruggiero in collaboration with the Carter Family Marionettes. The production melded the Sicilian puppet tradition, steeped in the tales of Ariosto and Tasso, Caccini and librettist Saricinelli’s adaptation of the tale of Ruggiero and Alcina for the Florentine court of Grand Duchess Maria Magdalena, and the vibrant (and bawdy) tradition of the nascent Italian theater of commedia dell’arte. We will again explore the commedia tradition next season with a production of Orazio Vecchi’s madrigal comedy L’Amfiparnaso in collaboration with the Dell’ Arte players.

In December we marked the launch of The Cozzolani Project with performances of Donna Chiara’s four part mass set in the liturgical context of Christmas Mass at Midnight. At the same time, we began digitally releasing new tracks of Cozzolani’s music that will be on the first volume of her complete works to be released physically in June. We will return to the Midnight Mass next December, but this time with a distinctly French accent in the form of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s beloved Messe de Minuit, which integrates the melodies of traditional French noëls.

In February, through the generosity of musicologists Giulia Giovani and Aurelio Bianco, we had the privilege of performing the modern premieres of the first cantatas. Soprano Laura Heimes sang three cantatas and two madrigals from Alessandro Grandi’s Cantade ed Arie, published in 1620 and thought lost until recently uncovered in a Spannish music collection. Laura also sang some of Grandi’s emotionally-charged motets and violinists Rob Diggins and David Wilson played virtuoso instrumental music by some of Grandi’s Venetian colleagues. We will continue our tradition of featuring one of our singers in recital next February with a program of music written by and about women sung by soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani.

And then there was the 1610 Vespers. We celebrated the 400th anniversary of Monteverdi’s epochal publication last weekend to the largest audiences in Magnificat’s history. Monteverdi’s 1610 collection helped him land the most prestigious musical position in Europe at the time: maestro di capella at the Basilica of San Marco in Venice. His compositions helped to inspire a century of glorious Vespers music in Venice. Magnificat will be participating in the grand finale concert on June 13 as part of  this year’s Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, a concert that will explore that repertoire in a Venetian Vespers from Monteverdi to Vivaldi. Magnificat’s artistic director Warren Stewart will conduct a massed choir and orchestra drawn from all the mainstage ensembles presented by the Festival.

Magnificat’s Board of Directors has done a tremendous job this year – Magnificat’s ticket sales more than doubled over 09-10, we are completing a decade-long project to record the complete works of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, and we are participating in this year’s Berkeley Festival. Many thanks go to Board officers Nicholas Elsishans, John Golenski, Dorothy Manly and Michael Patterson and Board members Richard Fabian, Mickey Butts, Charles Thiel and Michael King. They are already hard at work preparing our next season, which opens October 8-10, 2010 with the modern premiere of the second version of John Blow’s Venus and Adonis. Blow’s setting of the classic myth was simultaneously the last example of the English masque tradition and the first English opera and served as the model for Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. For this production we have assembled a brilliant cast of Catherine Webster, Jennifer Paulino, José Lemos, Paul Elliott and Peter Becker, who will be joined in a cameo appearance by members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus.

A special thank you to Margriet Downing and Julianna Wetherwax and to all the volunteers who served as ushers and concert support. It is no exaggeration to say that we could not put these concerts on without their tireless effort and dedication. We are also deeply grateful to Magnificat’s audio enginner Boby Borisov who makes us sound good and our creative director Nika Korniyenko, who makes us look good!

We are also grateful for the generous support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Bank of America Foundation and to all the individual donors who value the art that Magnificat creates and have helped us to grow over the course of the season.

And finally we thank our audience, who are really the only reason we present these concerts. Magnificat has been blessed with a committed, engaged and appreciative audience that not only attends our concerts with enthusiasm and dedication but helps to spread the word about Magnificat and the music we perform. Thank you!

October, 2009 Caccini La Liberazione di Ruggiero

Catherine Webster, Jennifer Paulino, José Lemos, Scott Whitaker, Daniel Hutchings, Hugh Davies, Rob Diggins, David Wilson, Louise Carslake, Annette Bauer, John Dornenburg, Katherine Heater, Warren Stewart and The Carter Family Marionettes: Stephen, Chris and Dmitri Carter.

December 2009 Cozzolani Christmas Mass

Catherine Webster, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, Meg Bragle, Kristen Dubenion-Smith, Hugh Davies, Hanneke van Proosdij and Warren Stewart.

February 2010 Grandi Cantatas and Motets

Laura Heimes, Rob Diggins, David Wilson, David Tayler, Hanneke van Proosdij and Warren Stewart

April 2010 Monteverdi Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610)

Jennifer Paulino, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, Christopher LeCluyse, Daniel Hutchings, Paul Elliott, Brian Thorsett, Jeffrey Fields, Rob Stafford, Hugh Davies, Peter Becker, Rob Diggins, Jolianne von Einem, David Wilson, John Dornenburg, David Tayler, KAtherine Heater and The Whole Noyse: Stephen Escher, Richard Van Hessel, Sandy Stadtfeld, Herb Myers and guest Kiri Tollaksen and Ernie Rideout.

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