James MacMillan at Brandeis University
Tuesday, February 5, 3:30pm
Slosberg Music Center
415 South Street, Waltham, MA 02453.
This event is free and open to the public!
This Tuesday, February 5, Brandeis University will host a discussion exploring the significance of Clemency’s story. Dr. Jonathan P. Decter, Edmond J. Safra Professor of Sephardic Studies at Brandeis University, currently teaches a course Introduction to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam at the university. Dr. Decter will open his class to the public for a special discussion of the significance the story of Abraham and Sarah holds for these three faiths. He will be joined by Clemency composer James MacMillan, who often finds inspiration from spiritual sources. Clemency is no exception. MacMillan will speak about how these figures inspired an opera. BLO’s Opera Annex production will be the US premier of Clemency.
BLO’s critically-acclaimed Opera Annex continues with the US premiere of James MacMillan’s Clemency. The libretto, by poet Michael Symmons Roberts, is drawn from the book of Genesis. Abraham and Sarah are childless and nearing the end of their lives. They are approached by three travelers who share the unexpected and miraculous news that Sarah will have a child in old age. The mood darkens as it becomes clear that the travelers are on a mission of vengeance upon the neighboring towns, and Abraham pleads clemency for their inhabitants. Falling before the moment when Abraham takes his son Isaac up the mountain to be sacrificed and after he has banished his handmaid Hagar and his son by her, Ishmael, the story of Abraham’s encounter with the three travelers makes a crucial and oft-puzzled over change in him.
For its US premier at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter beginning February 6, Clemency will be preceded by a performance of Franz Schubert’s Hagar’s Lament. The song, its lyrics drawn from a moving poem by Clemens August Schücking, centers on Hagar—mother of Abraham’s firstborn child—who poignantly sings of her sadness and anger after being abandoned in the desert with her dying son. The pairing of the two works allows the audience to compare not only the musical styles of MacMillan (a living composer) and Schubert, but also draws attention to the histories of Ishmael and Isaac, the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham’s personal struggle with clemency.
For a synopsis of BLO’s Opera Annex production of Clemency , including Hagar’s Lament, visit http://blo.org/events/james-macmillans-clemency/