Up Late Thursday With Theodora

I gave up on seeing Mercury (again) as I drove home under ominous low hanging clouds and a fierce northwest wind.  I parked the van and entered my home, apologizing to Roxy for not being able to take her on a walk.  I caught Terry dicing tomatoes for bruschetta in the kitchen, so I retreated to the great room to get my exercising done before dinner. Roxy and Apollo got a special treat for their dinner.  I had to crack open a couple of cans of Pedigree beef stew for them since the large fifty pound bag of dry dog food was nearly empty.  They didn’t seem to mind though.

After dinner, we still had over an hour before my daughter’s concert started.  I had already redeployed my Linux (Kubuntu distro) and integrated it with the AV receiver, Internet and plasma display.  I tested the sound and video quality before letting it apply any security updates and patches it needed since last I turned it on. I flipped the receiver back to the DVR so we could watch the latest NCIS before the concert.

Earlier in the day, I printed out a couple of copies of the program for Handel’s Theodora.  Twenty pages long!  It took me a couple of printings before I finally got the right mixture of duplex printer settings to product an actual booklet.  I kept the program beside me (with a pen) to make notes during the performance. I also found a news article from the local Denton newspaper and a blog post from the Dallas Opera about the performance.

At 7:25, I flipped the receiver back to the computer and made sure the screen saver had sufficient time to not engage for the next hour or two.  Then we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  As is par for the course at UNT, the performance started  about fifteen minutes past the advertised and scheduled time.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the oratorio sung in English.  The reason I go to the trouble to print the programs is most often they are my only lifeline to understanding the text and usually include the original language text and an English translation.  Thankfully, all that was needed was one language for Theodora.

During Act I, I made special note of several Airs performed by Jeffrey Snider (as Valens) and Richard Croft (as Septimius).  I encourage you to review their biographies in the program.  I can appreciate the skill and versatility of the countertenor, Ryland Angel (as Didymus), but I just can’t sit easy listening to him.  Theodora (performed by Ava Pine) had some of the most beautiful poetic lines in her airs.  Jennifer Lane (as Irene) showed off her range and talents impressively.

The second act included a couple of symphonic interludes bracketing a recitative and air by Theodora which featured mellow soulful melodies sung by wooden flutes.  While not specifically featured in a solo, another quest artist, Richard Savino,  and his strange looking large chitarrone could easily be seen in the center of the Baroque Orchestra next to the two harpsichords.  In fact, I received an e-mail from my uncle asking me what kind of instrument it was and I directed him to the program, specifically the page listing the instruments and their performers.

The highlight of the second act culminated in the final chorus, favored by Handel even above his vaunted Hallelujah chorus (from theMessiah).

He saw the lovely youth, death’s early prey,
Alas, too early snatch’d away!
He heard his mother’s fun’ral cries.

“Rise, youth,” He said. The youth begins to rise.
Lowly the matron bow’d, and bore away the prize.

By this time, the clock struck a quarter ’til ten.  Way past my bedtime and Terry had already succumbed to slumber.  I hung on through the final intermission and the hopefully briefer third act.

Valens and Septimius both had astonishing airs, but the final duet between Didymus and Theodora contained some of the most glorious poetry written by the librettist Thomas Morell (for the complete Theodora libretto, follow this link.  The final chorus to the third act ended about twenty minutes before eleven o’clock. While not as stunning as the previous act’s ending chorus, the words imparted the longed for hope of the tragic figures of Theodora and Didymus:

O love divine, thou source of fame,
Of glory, and all joy!
Let equal fire our souls inflame,
And equal zeal employ,
That we the glorious spring may know,
Whose streams appear’d so bright below. 

I shutdown the computer, turned off the receiver and plasma and trudged upstairs to bed, leaving the dogs and the husband to fend for themselves.

While not a featured soloist in the production, Rachelle participated as a member of the Collegium Singers during the impressive performance of Handel’s Theodora.  She gets to repeat this performance again this evening in Dallas at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

The Little Lost and Forgotten Canon That Could

During the drive in to work today I heard one of my favorite Baroque music pieces, albeit not in performed as originally written or arranged.  A piece of music history that lay forgotten for centuries and only a single original manuscript copy survives to this day.  Rediscovered in the early 20th century, it’s popularity remains undimmed nearly another century later.  I’m speaking of Pachelbel‘s Canon.

The version I heard this morning via KLOVE had been massaged by the Trans Siberian Orchestra and transformed into a ‘Christmas Canon Rock.’

I can’t explain my reaction to this music.  Just three notes into this song and my chest tightens, I have trouble breathing and my eyes tear up.  No wonder this piece is wildly popular at weddings.  And it doesn’t matter what form or genre morphs this music.  The original genius and simple beauty always shines through.

My tiny bit of research this morning yielded an entire site devoted to this piece of music and how often it shows up in modern music.  Admittedly, the chord progression contained in the Canon in D is very common (I -V-vi-iii-IV-I-ii-V).  A few of the modern songs that caught my eye were:

  • “Cryin” by Aerosmith
  • “Let It Be” by the Beatles
  • “Tunnel of Love” by Dire Straits
  • “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister
  • “With or Without You” by U2

And I’m glad I clicked on the videos link there or I would have never watched this comedian’s rant on his cross to bear in Pachelbel’s Canon in D:


While I enjoyed TSO’s ‘Christmas Canon Rock’ version, I think, at the end of the day, what really puts a smile on my face and a zing in my spring, would be the ‘Ultimate Canon Rock’ as seen here:


Rock On Johann!