Handel’s Israel in Egypt

Handel and Haydn Society Orchestra and Chorus

Handel and Haydn Society presents Israel in Egypt

Saturday, February 19
Pre-Concert Colloquium:  2:00 – 4:30 pm
Concert:  8:00 pm
MIT Kresge Auditorium, 48 Massachusetts Avenue (Building W16)
*Exclusive event for MIT Community. Open and free of charge to MIT students, faculty, staff and alumni, only.

On Saturday, 19 February 2011, the MIT community experienced the incredible drama of Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt, bursting with dynamic choruses. In this work, with only a handful of arias, the soloist takes a secondary role, unlike any other work by Handel. This tour de force opus vividly depicts the imaginative telling of the book of Exodus, narrating in graphic detail the ten plagues that befall Egypt. “Moses’ Song” follows with sounds of celebration, deliverance and freedom, culminating in the superb chorus “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.”

The pre-concert colloquium was moderated by Ellen T. Harris, Class of 1949 Professor of Music, and explored themes of liberation from authoritarianism and slavery in the story of Exodus.

Peter Temin, Professor of Economics at MIT, speaking to the Biblical and Historical Exodus
Sandy Alexandre, Associate Professor of Literature at MIT, addressing the Exodus story in modern America and the Civil Rights movement
Ellen T. Harris: Professor of Music at MIT, commenting on the context of Handel’s Israel in Egypt
Harry Christophers, Artistic Director, Handel and Haydn Society

Israel in Egypt was premiered in the United States by the Handel and Haydn Society in 1859 and last performed it in 1974, This monumental work vividly depicts the biblical story of Exodus.  Scored for seven soloists, double choruses and, for its time, an unusually large orchestra, Israel in Egypt is unlike any other of Handel’s oratorios in that it contains more choral movements than solo ones, featuring only a handful of arias. The large orchestration creates a richly-textured and distinctive sound found in few other baroque works. “Handel absolutely relishes the opportunity for word painting illustrating frogs, flies, lice, locusts, hailstones, and in the most imaginative chorus of all, darkness (‘He Sent a Thick Darkness Over all the Land’),” explains Artistic Director Harry Christophers. “I guarantee you will find its strange tonality baffling to the ears even today!”

The concert was given by the Handel and Haydn Society Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Harry Christophers.

Please click here for more information on the Handel and Haydn Society.

Ellen Harris

Ellen T. Harris, Moderator of the Pre-concert Colloquium on Themes in the Story of Exodus as context for the performance of Israel In Egypt
February 19, 2011

Ellen T. Harris, a renowned Handel scholar, is Class of 1949 Professor of Music at MIT and served as the Institute’ first Associate Provost for the Arts from 1989 to 1996. Her most recent book, Handel as Orpheus: Voice and Desire in the Chamber Cantatas, received awards from both the American Musicological Society and the Society for Eighteenth-Centruy Studies, and was lauded by critics as “remarkable”, “provocative” and “humane”. In addition to her books on Handel’s music, she has written articles and reviews on Baroque opera and vocal performance, Handel as investor, and censorship in the arts and arts education. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among her other honors are the Gyorgy Kepes Prize, awarded for her contributions to the arts at MIT. Professor Harris also performs as a soprano soloist; her appearances include the National Anthem at Fenway Park and her 1997 Boston Pops debut in Symphony Hall with John Williams conducting.