After scooping the pool at this year’s Helpmann Awards with an unprecedented five wins, the acclaimed Brisbane Baroque will take over the city from April 8 to 16, headlined by international stars and a host of emerging Australian musicians. Brisbane Baroque is a festival celebrating the music of the baroque era, the period in Western European art and music from about 1600 to 1750; it is the only annual professional festival of music of the baroque, an era of unmatched creative energy and currently one of the major growth sectors in the classical music world.

Handel’s first Italian Opera, Agrippina is the centrepice – the story of the scheming Roman empress full of sexual intrigue and political power playing with a superb international cast. A masterpiece, it is Handel’s first Italian opera and the first complete staging in Australia. Other highlights of the program include:

• A three-part celebration of the music of ANTONIO VIVALDI
• The debut of the acclaimed baroque mezzo, VIVICA GENAUX
• The Australia debut of the sensational Iranian-American harpsichord virtuoso MAHAN ESFAHANI
• Appearances by rising Australian star soprano GRETA BRADMAN
• A semi-staged performance of Henry Purcell’s rarely performed opera KING ARTHUR
• Three concerts with Brisbane’s celebrated chamber orchestra, CAMERATA OF ST JOHN’S, stars of the 2015 event.
• The return of the wildly popular 5 x 5 x5 @ 5 series featuring exclusively Queensland/Brisbane-based musicians.
• Nine FREE recitals and talks.
• Performances in two of Brisbane’s ecclesiastical architectural icons, St. John’s Cathedral and St. Brigid’s, Red Hill.
• Major emphasis on YOUNG PERFORMERS – 30 UNDER 30

Highlights of the program include…

AGRIPPINA – Friday 8 April, Thursday 14 April, Saturday 16 April 7.00pm
Sunday 10 April 1pm
Conservatorium Theatre

Following the phenomenal success of 2015’s multiple Helpmann Award-winning production of Faramondo, Brisbane Baroque is proud to present another stunning international production from the famous Göttingen Handel Festival. Composed in 1709 when Handel was just 24 years of age, Agrippina was one of his earliest operas and one of his biggest successes. The opera premiered in Venice and enjoyed twenty-seven successive performances, an extraordinarily long run at that time. Though not one of Handel’s better-known works Agrippina is a telling example of the maestro’s openly dramatic and realistic style. Italian audience of the 17th and 18th centuries were fascinated by tales of ancient Rome which, in many cases, paralleled contemporary political intrigues, and the history of Julia Agrippina the Younger is a prime example. Scheming, manipulative wife of one emperor, sister of another, mother of a third and (if rumours are true) the incestuous lover of the latter two, Agrippina dominated Roman imperial politics as no other woman before her had dared to attempt.
Here was a tale ripe with audience appeal. Some ten composers, including Porpora, Graun and Telemann, set operas on the Agrippina theme but the finest of these was that of the young Handel. It won for him fame not only in Italy, where he became known as il caro Sassone, the dear Saxon, but also in England, whence, in the following year, he was lured to become one that country’s greatest and most revered composers. While the libretto plays fast and loose with history, it is better than most Handel had to work with. It sustains the drama and helps move the show along at a cracking pace. And the music is marvellous.

BACH – Music in the Castle of Heaven
Saturday 9 April 7.30pm
Concert Hall, QPAC

Bach was an ordinary man who wrote extraordinary music. Asked for the secret of his musical success, he replied, “I was obliged to be industrious; whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.” Modesty probably forbade him to mention that one also needed genius. For this Gala Bach Celebration, The Australian Voices under the inspired direction of Gordon Hamilton, and a group of exciting young vocal and instrumental soloists including star soprano Greta Bradman, British tenor Nicholas Scott,
virtuoso violinists Ioana Tache and Kristian Winther and organist Christopher Wrench join forces with members of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra directed by rising star Australian conductor Jessica Cottis to celebrate the marvel of Bach’s music, both sacred and secular. Three centuries after the composer’s birth, his imperishable compositions remain as powerful, inspiring and beautiful as when first heard, fresh and new-minted.
*The title of this concert is a salute to Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s magisterial study of Bach’s music, of the same name.

Sunday 10 April 7.30pm
Concert Hall, QPAC

Our tripartite celebration of the music of Antonio Vivaldi begins with a GALA CONCERT featuring Brisbane’s Camerata of St John’s and the first Australian concert appearance of the magnificent American mezzo soprano Vivica Genaux. Famed not only for the beauty of her voice an extraordinary technique but also for her vibrant character portrayals, Genaux is consistently lauded as one of the pre-eminent interpreters of baroque and bel canto music. She has appeared with some of the most famous early music ensembles in the world including Europa Galante under Fabio Biondi, Le Concert Spirituel with Herve Niquet, with Christophe Rousset’s famed Les Talens Lyriques and Rene Jacob’s Akademie für Alte Musik in Berlin. Alaska-born, Genaux now lives near Venice, and music by Antonio Vivaldi, the city’s emblematic composer, figures prominently in her repertoire. Making a welcome return to the QPAC Concert Hall after their sensational major debut there last year, is Brisbane’s youthful Camerata of St John’s under the direction of Brendan Joyce, and with the acclaimed Erin Helyard on harpsichord. Their appearance in the QPAC Concert Hall in the inaugural Brisbane Baroque last year caused a sensation. The program comprises some of Vivaldi’s most exuberant virtuoso arias and a selection from his set of twelve concertos known as La Stravaganza, works that some connoisseurs prefer to his better known Four Seasons.

THE RED PRIEST – At the Red Brick Church at Red Hill
Wednesday 13 April 7.00pm
St Brigid’s Church, Red Hill

Visible from all directions, St. Brigid’s Church, perched triumphantly atop Red Hill, is one of the finest heritage buildings in Brisbane, a splendid example of the Arts and Crafts style, which emerged in the UK and America in the late 19th century and was muchfavoured in Australia’s Federation era. Its architect, Robin Dods, was born in New Zealand but he was educated at Brisbane Grammar and is regarded as a Queenslander. Were he to have left no building other than this magnificent church, he would still have that distinction, just as Joern Utzonwill be forever associated with the great building on Bennelong Point. Architecture has been described as frozen music, so it is fitting that during Brisbane Baroque, St. Brigid’s will resonate to the glorious church music of Antonio Vivaldi, brought to you by one of the current glories of Brisbane, the superb Camerata of St John’s. For the first time ever, the Red Priest comes to Red Hill.

MAHAN ESFAHANI – Thursday 14 April 7.30pm
Concert Hall, QPAC

Brisbane Baroque is honoured to host the first appearance in Australia of this astonishing young harpsichord virtuoso. Born in Tehran in 1984, Mahan studied in the United States and Milan before completing his studies in Prague. He made his BBC Proms debut in 2011 with the first ever solo harpsichord recital in Proms history, and returned in 2012 directing his own orchestration of Bach’s The Art of Fugue for the Academy of Ancient Music. The latter performance was one of The Observer’s ‘Top Ten of Classical Music 2012’. Other highlights include recitals in the concert halls of Vienna, Tokyo, Nagoya,Cologne, New York Washington DC, Vancouver, Bruges, Zürich, Copenhagen, Leeds, Bristol,The Maltings at Snape and Edinburgh, as well as several recitals at Wigmore Hall. A frequent commentator on BBC radio and television and a contributor to various music magazines and publications, Mahan works to take the harpsichord beyond the realm of early music into mainstream halls and series. Mahan was shortlisted in the instrumentalist category at the 2014 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards and was nominated Gramophone ‘Artist of the Year’. His recording of CPE Bach’s Württemberg Sonatas (1744) received wide critical acclaim, winning a Diapason d’Or, and was ‘Recording of the Month’ in BBC Music Magazine. He is the first harpsichordist to be made a BBC New Generation Artist (2008–2010) and to win a prize from the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, a charitable trust established in 2002 to assist classical instrumentalists, ensembles and singers in their early 20s and 30s to further develop their international careers.

THE RED PRIEST – Women of The Pieta
Friday 15 April 7.30pm
St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane

Antonio Vivaldi was born and brought up near the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for the care of illegitimate daughters of Venetiannoblemen and generously funded (mostly anonymously) by them. In 1703 Vivaldi was engaged as a violin teacher at the Pietà and he worked there on an off for thirty-six years, until 1740, the year before he died. The young girls who grew up at the Ospedale received a thorough education and superb musical training and their performances were famed throughout Europe and beyond. Francisco Guardi’s lively painting shows an elegant assembly at a reception for the Tsarevich of Russia in the Grand Salon of the Pietà with the women, in their distinctive black dresses and white fichus, ranged in three tiers overlooking the guests. During 1739 and 1740, the celebrated French writer Count Charles Brosses travelled widely in Italy and corresponded enthusiastically with friends in his home
city of Dijon. In one letter, written in Venice, he noted that “the Ospedale has the best music here… the girls are brought up at the State’s expense and trained exclusively in music. Indeed they sing like angels, play the violin, flute, organ, oboe, cello…bassoon. The performances are entirely their own and each concert iscomposed of about forty girls.” In the atmospheric surroundings of St. John’s Cathedral celebrated chorus director Emily Cox directs the women of Brisbane’s admired Canticum Chamber Choir and the musicians of Alchemy in a program evocative of the atmosphere of the Pietà.

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