Andrew Lawrence King at Sheffield
Andrew Lawrence King at Sheffield

Sheffield, England to stage the first Spanish Oratorio

January 24 2005

As part of the University's centenary celebrations, two programmes of Baroque music in theatrical settings are to be staged at Sheffield Cathedral in February 2005. Following the international success of La Púrpura de la Rosa in 2003, the same team join forces once more to produce a modern premiere as the first performance of the centenary events.

Andrew Lawrence King, world expert in Baroque performance, returns to Sheffield University, working alongside Jane Davidson, Anthony Trippett and the students of the departments of Music and Hispanic Studies. The result is two productions including a modern première and a visually exciting collaboration with Swamp Circus, England's longest running contemporary circus.

The first of these, Amonya do los tres mundos (The Harmony of the Three Worlds,) is a staging of the sacred Hispanic Baroque including Mexican Nocturnes, African Dances and a première of the first ever Spanish Oratorio. The performances explore three inter-related worlds of early music drama. In the oratorio, the sacred mystery of the Christmas story is dramatised, bringing vivid tone-colours of Hispanic opera into a cathedral setting with strophic songs. Mexican villancicos, dramatic intermedios, provide social comment and are based on the sensual rhythms of secular dances. They draw on the indigenous sound world of tribal languages, accompanied by wind instruments inspired by birdsong; dances brought by slaves from the Ivory Coast, and so are accompanied by African drums, hand percussion and rhythmic footwork.

Oratorio Sacro al Nacimiento de Christo Señor Nuestro (Sacred Oratorio on the nativity of Christ Our Lord) and the Sheffield Performances

This is the earliest Spanish Oratorio for which we have both the libretto and the music. It was first performed in Valencia in the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri (nowadays the church of Santo Tomás). There were later performances in Valencia (1713) and Menorca (1729). Orgambide (the composer) is mentioned as a tiple (treble) in the capilla de Corpus Christi Patriarca (Valencia) a major centre of music at the time. By 1705 he was the maestro de capilla (choirmaster.) About 14 of his works survive.

Valencia had Academies, comparable to the Florentine academies of the later sixteenth century, in which poetry, music and even mathematics were discussed. Later in the eighteenth century the increasing use of violin marks the Italianisation of the oratorio. There is no certain knowledge as to the identity of the librettist. At least one oratorio was performed in costume.

Sheffield have been working from a manuscript discovered in Mallorca by the Spanish musicologist Dr. María-Teresa Ferrer of the Music Department of the University of Valladolid, who has been engaged in some ground-breaking research on Spanish oratorios. Thanks to her the production team have been able to convert an eighteenth century manuscript in the soprano clef with individual written parts into a modern workable score. This is understood to be a world premiere in modern times.

María-Teresa Ferrer will be giving a talk at 6 p.m. in the Friends' Meeting House, 10 St. James' Street, Sheffield, on Wednesday 16th February prior to the first performance in the Cathedral at 7.30. The talk will be in Spanish but an English summary will be provided, and an interpreter will be on hand to translate questions. A number of villancicos, songs in Spanish on Christmas themes, some with New World components, will accompany the staged performances of the Oratorio.

Weds 16 & Fri 18 February, 7:30pm, Sheffield Cathedral
Tickets: £10, £7 (Senior Citizens), £5 (Students, unwaged)

Enquiries: University of Sheffield Department of Music, 38 Taptonville Road, Sheffield, S10 5BR, United Kingdom
Tel: 0114 2220499/0470

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