German arias unveiled
GERMAN soprano Dorothee Jansen is to peform the second of four island concerts tonight (Thursday) at St German’s Cathedral, Peel.
I was lucky enough to be invited to her first concert in aid of Ramsey Music Society on Monday evening.
With its stained glass windows, arches and wooden beams, St Paul’s Church, Ramsey, was a perfect setting for Handel’s Nine German Arias. Encased in its history, Dorothee and her fellow musicians delivered a magical performance.
We were transported back in time to the early 18th Century when, between 1924 and 1927, German composer Handel created the little known arias.
Dorothee took to the stage dressed in a long red dress - flamboyant in colour but understated in design and fabric.Without the need for bright make up or an elaborate hairstyle, this performer simply presented herself naturally as herself.
Her husband Haydn, who played the harpsichord exquisitely throughout, offered a narrative following the composer’s life and works between each aria. It is believed that these concerts are to be the first time the composer’s German arias will be played in the island. Though not clear why they are rarely performed, they are the only pieces Handel, who had become a British citizen by the time of his death, wrote in his own language.
And anyway, as Haydn explained, his music was ‘Italian through and through even when sung in English or German’.
The couple were joined by island musicians who, despite appearances, they had only met this summer.
Perched next to Hayden was Janet Warburton on cello. And joining the mix, as required, were Bernard Osborne on violin, Andrew Cole on oboe and Ruth Crossley, in a stunning black dress, on flute.
They played as if they’d been united for years – their rhythm and flow was immaculate.
Dorothee’s voice was perfectly powerful yet subtle in its strength and deliverance. She had a beautiful fluidity as she sang in her own mother tongue.
As with many operatic performances just watching Dorothee as she followed the music by sucking in air and unleashing her voice from deep within. Her facial expressions, hand movements and eyes alone told a thousand stories, as her head lifted and swayed. The energy of the music coarsed through her veins. She is an emotive story teller without the exaggeration that can sometimes spoil opera. And as each aria was performed the mood became more and more jubilant.
Although she stood there gimmick-free, there was something rather exotic about Dorothee - perhaps because she is German, a world renowned singer singing in German, in little old Ramsey.
She really brought the world stage to our island.
Speaking before the concert, Dorothee, who has a home in Castletown as well as New Zealand, said: ‘We considered the Handel and Italian programmes and thought it would nice to give something back to the island.
‘Haydn found some wonderful musicians who are all music teachers and members of the Isle of Man Orchestra and then it all started to come together.’
She added: ‘Hopefully we will continue to do concerts on the island as we are so pleased to have met these musicians here.
‘I think they are of a very high standard – much higher than I expected in such a small community. I’m also amazed at how good their sight reading is. They are really very professional. It’s been nice to work with them.’
She added: ‘The Manx people, I find, are really open and laid back, which isn’t to say they aren’t serious about their music. They seem to really enjoy making music. They’re sensitive to everyone’s requirements and seem to really enjoy working with one another.’
Tonight’s concert, which starts at 7.30pm, is in aid of the new cathedral choral foundation. Along with a concert at King William’s College Chapel at 8pm on September 13, it will also feature Handel’s Nine German Arias.
In addition, Dorothee will present an evening of Italian music at 8pm on Monday at the Erin Arts Centre.
So why peform these relatively unknown nine arias? ‘I’ve only performed them once before but they are so easy to listen to.When musicians, including here, play them they can’t understand why they’ve never heard of them before.’
Meanwhile the Italian programme will cover composers from the late 16th century such as Peri, Caccini and Scarlatti to Verdi who just lived into the 20th Century.
When asked why she moved to the island in 1999, Dorothee said: ‘Haydn had a business in the island and I loved it here. It’s a perfect antidote to my work which is in big noisy cities. It’s so unspoilt and a good place to find one’s strength.’
Tickets costing £8-£10 can be bought on the door at each concert.
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Weather for Isle of Man
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 6 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 33 mph
Wind direction: North west