Baritone Gregory Feldmann and bass-baritone Erik Van Heyningen – both students at the Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts at The Juilliard School – will be singing the famed bass duet The Lord is a Man of War. This week it’s their turn to answer our three questions…
1. What do you love most about Handel’s Israel in Egypt?
GF: As much as I love the rough-and-tough bass duet that features Erik and me, the choral writing is some of the most vivid and intense I have ever heard. I don’t believe Handel ever employed such contrasting extremes in one work like he did in Israel in Egypt. You’ll be left jarred after transitioning from the plague of hailstones to the painfully still darkness.
EVH: I find the tale of liberation one of the most compelling in the canon. I’m happy to take part in telling it.
2. What will be your most daunting technical feat for this production?
GF: “The Lord is a Man of War” is one of the most hyper-masculine pieces I have ever encountered in Baroque repertoire! In addition to consistent coloratura passages and many stylistic twists, the piece requires almost my entire vocal range in three minutes of music.
EVH: Perhaps it isn’t daunting, but I do find great joy in doing a duet for two basses. That is certainly an unusual setup, and it is exciting to do it.
3. What is your favorite recording?
GF: William Christie’s recording of the original 1737 score! His handling of the opening lament choruses are so sensitive and interesting.
EVH: Gardiner’s recording! So classy, so suave!
Spotlight: The Plagues
He sent a thick Darkness over all the Land
Many historians now think that that the ten plagues are actually passed-down accounts of a chain reaction of natural disasters, stemming from the catastrophic explosion of the Thera volcano in Santorini in the year. The Darkness of the ninth plague was likely caused by the “hamsin” – a dry hot sandy wind affecting Egypt, coming from the south or southwest, that was charged with sand and dust. Even now, the hamsin at times produces darkness rivaling that of the worst London fogs. One can imagine the thick ash and smoke that led ancient Egyptians to see a thick Darkness over all the land.
Artist Kevork Mourad’s haunting illustrations give us a taste of that frightening feeling – putting us in mind of the terrible fires and smoke that California is going through right now.
Spotlight: South Sudan
In this section we humbly acknowledge that 68 million people are experiencing some form of exile today. We began with Syria (6.3M displaced), followed by Afghanistan (3.6M). The numbers are nearly impossible to conceive on a human scale.
The situation in South Sudan is also dire. The largest refugee crisis in Africa, more than 4 million people have been uprooted from their homes since the start of a brutal civil war in 2013, including about 2.4 million people who have been forced to cross into neighboring countries, the majority of them women and children.
Ongoing warfare, flooding and drought continue to worsen what is already a dangerous humanitarian crisis. There are massive needs for clean water, health care, sanitation, food, shelter, and protection across the country.