Our performances of Handel’s La Resurrezione will feature the long-awaited ABS debut of Meg Bragle, an American mezzo-soprano who has worked with some of the most highly regarded Baroque ensembles in the world, including the English Baroque Soloists with Sir John Eliot Gardner, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. ABS caught up with Meg to hear some of her thoughts about her career, her desire to work with Jeffrey Thomas, and her role in La Resurrezione.
You’ve found a lot of success performing Baroque music. How did you come to realize you had a certain affinity for this repertoire? Was it a specific performance or opportunity?
I feel incredibly lucky to have found my way to Baroque music. It’s hard to say that there was one defining moment—rather that many threads of my musical life drew me to the repertoire and approach to music-making. Certainly one of the most important and compelling elements for me is the collaborative spirit that pervades the genre. I love that feeling you get when everyone is on the same wave length and music happens.
What excites you about working with Jeffrey Thomas and ABS for the first time?
Jeffrey is one of the foremost conductors in the American Baroque scene, and I’ve been looking forward to working with him for a long time. I love that he is both a singer and conductor, and I think that this gives him a unique approach to music-making.
Does your preparation change when you are about to work with an ensemble for the first time rather than a group with which you’re already familiar?
I don’t think so. It’s always exciting to work with a new group, and the process of getting to know an ensemble when working together for the first time is always something I look forward to. But really my preparation is focused on the music and text. Once you arrive and start working with the other musicians, that’s when the piece takes on a different life of its own—each group has its own musical identity and approach. The trick is finding your way with them toward the common goal of an expressive and compelling performance.
Given your considerable opera experience, how do you incorporate your acting abilities, if at all, for oratorio performances such as La Resurrezione? In other words, do you still “act” your role while stationary?
I think oratorio requires more of a singer in some ways because you aren’t dependent on costumes, sets, or choreography to bolster the action. The text is paramount, and it is so important to remember that Handel’s original audiences expected to be moved when attending the first performances, since they were deprived of opera at the time (a papal ban prohibited operatic performances in Rome when La Resurrezione was premiered). I think my primary job is to communicate with the audience: to take the words and music Handel wrote and draw people into the drama.
What would you like the audience to know about your role as Mary Cleophas? Is there something interesting that they should listen for?
Mary Cleophas is a mysterious figure in the Bible, and not much is known of her except that she was one of the women present at the Crucifixion of Jesus. Despite that, Handel has written some wonderful and expressive music for this rather unknown woman. La Resurezzione is full of musical delights and the writing is so expressive. I hope the audience enjoys every minute!
HANDEL: La Resurrezione
Nola Richardson, soprano (Mary Magdalene)
Mary Wilson, soprano (Angel)
Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano (Mary Cleophas)
Kyle Stegall, tenor (John the Evangelist)
Jesse Blumberg, baritone (Lucifer)
American Bach Soloists
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Friday May 5 2017 8:00 pm
St. Stephen’s Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, BELVEDERE
Saturday May 6 2017 8:00 pm
First Presbyterian Church, 2407 Dana Street, BERKELEY
Sunday May 7 2017 4:00 pm
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell Street, SAN FRANCISCO
Monday May 8 2017 7:00 pm
Davis Community Church, 412 C Street, DAVIS