Baroque Oratorio Premieres in New Jersey

Finally, on June 22, at the College of St Elizabeth in Morristown, New
Jersey, the Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey presented the modern day premiere
of Alessandro Scarlattiís brilliantly operatic oratorio La
, here in its earliest and most complete form. Maestro Robert W.
Butts edited Scarlattiís masterpiece from the original 1693 manuscript
which is currently in the collection of the National Park Service in
Morristown, New Jersey.

Scarlattiís La Giuditta exists in at least two other versions
and has been performed and recorded based on a later abridged manuscript. The
more extensive March 1693 manuscript used for Sundayís performance, was
brought to the attention of Maestro Butts by Dr. Jude Phister, Chief of
Cultural Resources at the Washingtonís Headquarters offices.

Maestro Butts brought the score he edited to life, conducting with
sensuality and passion while directing the fluid sounding orchestra through
the magical ritornelli which concluded each aria. Soloists from within the
orchestra were, in places, almost as memorable as the vocal stars. Most
notable was concertmaster Michael Avagliano who played a duet with soprano
Marjorie Berg on the workís most extensive aria ma so ben. He
performed several other solo parts in collaboration with other musicians of
the ensemble.

Providing poignant and moving melodic interest was Nancy Vanderslice who
soloed on oboe and English Horn. Bassoonist Andrew Pecota was also solid both
in continuo parts and his few solo moments. Harpsichordist John Pivarnik,
too, added much to the success of the performance, constantly on deck and
supporting the singers perfectly.

Baritone Mark Hewitt filled in at the last minute after two previous
singers pulled out. While it is true that Mr. Hewitt had some problems in
voice projection of the lowest tones required of his role as Oloferne, he
still delivered a performance of notable dramatic intensity. His interaction
with Marjorie Berg (Giuditta) was passionate and believeable. The result was
something to be genuinely greatly appreciated.

Marjorie Berg gripped the audience with an emotionally involved portrayal
of the title role. Have memorized her entire part, she sang with authority
and character, conveying equally well the seductive nature and determination
inherent in the part.

Bass John Lamb is a familiar face to early music audiences in the area. He
executed the relatively small role of Sacerdote in solid vocal form,
displaying an even tone appropriate to the gravity that infuses the
character. Both arias and recitatives were sung with conviction and style.

Mezzo Teresa Giardina made her debut with the orchestra as Ozia, the
beleaguered prince of Bettulia. Recently graduated from Ithica, Ms. Giardina
sang with clarity and emotional beauty in arias of great depth. She was
especially memorable in the moving addio libertai of the second

Tenor Daniel Foran sang the role of the Captain. His voice produced grace
and an elegant warm beauty which was especially winning. Mr Foran has been a
frequent performer with the Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey and this
performance showed how heís blossomed in his art. His rendition of
dalla patria at the end of Act I was truly unforgettable. Hopefully,
he will make the aria a part of his concert and recital repertoire!

Harmonium Choral Society, directed by Anne Matlack, joined in for the
final celebratory choruses, adding luster and power to create a rousing

Hearing this deeply moving performance, one can only hope that other
singers and ensembles will take this marvelous work into their concert
repertoire. The work is filled with beautiful music and is deeply dramatic,
practically crying out for a staged interpretation. It was presented here for
the first time complete in the modern era. One can only hope it wonít take
another three hundred years to hear it completely performed again.

Peter Stevens

image_description=Alessandro Scarlatti
product_title=Alessandro Scarlatti: Giuditta
Dolan Performance Hall, The Annunciation Center, the College of St Elizabeth, Morrsistown, New Jersey on Sunday, June 22.
product_by=Marjorie Berg (soprano), Daniel Foran (tenor), John Lamb (bass), Mark Hewitt (baritone) and Teresa Giardina (mezzo-soprano), Harmonium Choral Society
The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, Robert W. Butts (cond.)