Ever since Paul Goodwin took over as music director and Principal Conductor of the Carmel Bach Festival in 2011, the venerable event, founded in 1935, has covered new musical territory.
This year is no exception, continuing the interdisciplinary adventures that have marked the festival under the maestro’s tenure. “Bach and Shakespeare” combines the first two cantatas of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio – featuring soprano Mhairi Lawson, mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle, tenor Thomas Cooley and bass-baritone Dashon Burton, under Goodwin’s direction – with Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Incidental Music, Opus 61.” Noted Hollywood and Broadway actress Francesca Faridanay (Black Panther, Angels in America) will provide the Shakespearean narration.
“Bach originally presented it in six different venues in six different nights, three before Christmas, and three between Christmas and New Year’s,” Goodwin says. “For us, I thought a novel way of presenting it was to break it up and present it on three different nights, with three different directors.”
The program starts with the smallest grouping of single violins and voices. Over the three-day span it builds to versions with the chorus and full orchestra.
“For a long time, I’ve wanted to combine the ‘Oratorio’ with something theatrical,” Goodwin adds. “Mendelssohn and his sister, Fanny, loved Shakespeare – they used to play outMidsummer Night’s Dream in their bedroom – and he created ‘Incidental Music’ to go with the text. We all know the famous suite with ‘Wedding March’ and the ‘Scherzo,’ but many people haven’t heard the fairy music.”
Goodwin was hesitant to put together an entire evening driven by Shakespeare’s text and music. So he decided instead to “edit in” text from the play to go along with pieces from Bach’s pastoral cantatas to Mendelssohn’s Midsummer.
Faridany has worked with the festival before, and has strong family connections; her mother was a Bach Fest administrator, her grandmother a strong early supporter, and her sister, Lucy Faridany, is the festival’s chorus accompaniment.
It’s a family affair, indeed.
Continuing the theme of unusual connections, “Women of Influence” features Mozart violin sonatas inspired by women in the composer’s life, including his mother, sister, wife Costanze, and her sister Aloysia, who was cast in the first production of Don Giovanni.
The four-part Sonata for Violin and Fortepiano in E Minor and the Sonata for Violin and Fortepiano in B Major will be performed by violinist Peter Hanson, soprano vocalist Mhairi Lawson and Andrew Arthur on fortepiano, a special instrument brought in for the festival’s opening night – another cross-pollinating concept when it comes to the instrumentation itself. “It was crazy to have the fortepiano coming in, and not use it for another concert,” Goodwin says.
BACH AND SHAKESPEARE 4pm Sundays, July 14 and 21 at Sunset Center, Carmel. $35-$79.
WOMEN OF INFLUENCE 5pm Wednesday, July 17 at Church in the Forest, 3152 Forest Lake Road, Pebble Beach. $41. 624-1521, bachfestival.org.