Academy of Sacred Drama
Sunday, February 23, 2020, 4 p.m.
Corpus Christi Church
Jeremy Rhizor, director and violin
Three singers and six instrumentalists
The Victim of Love: Oratorio by Antonio Gianettini
Jeremy Rhizor’s mission is to create a comprehensive and totally original listening experience for his audience. He combines a fervent 17th-century oratorio, Gianettini’s La vittima d’amore, ossia La morte di Cristo in a modern-day premiere, a lecture at its midpoint, and a reception after the performance. The oratorio’s text is melancholy: it expresses the pain of Mary and St. John as they accept the necessary sacrifice of Jesus.
Mid-concert lecture and post-concert dessert reception
“A group of four silken-toned string players shared in the melodic bounty, and a continuo … wove ever-changing textures in support. In fact, the whole performance seemed tailored to the present moment, as it breathed melodious life into a dusty manuscript that had waited 300 years to be so up-to-date.” —New York Classical Review
The Academy of Sacred Drama subverts convention by exploring sacred dramatic music as a membership organization rather than a performing ensemble. This approach has enabled unusually ambitious projects such as the production of an open license journal devoted to sacred drama. Two seasons ago, journals helped to develop a richer understanding of the deuterocanonical and baroque conceptions of Judith for modern readers and audiences. Last season’s journal will explore Moses in sacred dramatic music as well as Moses art housed in New York City.
The Academy’s creation of editions and translations of little-known baroque oratorios and cantatas has enabled the frequent presentation of modern and American premieres of these works paired with lectures and receptions. The Academy’s 2017-2018 Year of Judith featured the modern-day premiere of Domenico Freschi’s Giuditta, the American premiere of Antonio Draghi’s Oratorio di Giuditta at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and a program of rarely heard Judith cantatas of the French Baroque. The Academy was featured in that first season in an article in Commonweal Magazine, and its artistic decisions were declared “striking” by the New York Times.
2018-2019 was the Academy’s Year of Moses and featured another set of premieres of large-scale musical works. Oratorios by Vincenzo de Grandis and Giovanni Antonio Gianettini were presented for the first time in more than 300 years. The Academy also performed the American premiere of an oratorio by Bernardo Pasquini and a program of rarely heard Moses cantatas of the French Baroque.
This initial phase of the Academy explores little-known baroque repertory through a variety of professional collaborations. In future seasons, the Academy will publish editions of historical sacred dramatic music and translations with open licenses and will expand its research of the repertory as well as its educational activities to medieval sources, modern commissions, and explorations of the place of drama within and outside of Christian liturgies. Starting in 2020, the organization’s artistic process will focus on curated seasons designed to take artistic risks and to challenge commonly held assumptions about music, drama, and society.
Noted for playing “virtuosically but with fluid grace” by the New York Times, violinist Jeremy Rhizor is the founder and director of the Academy of Sacred Drama. He has recently led baroque oratorios by Stradella, Pasquini, and Scarlatti through the Academy and for the Festival of Sacred Arts in Sweden. In recent solo performances in New York City and Sweden, he has showcased 17th-century Italian composers such as Corelli, Stradella, and Caldara. Past seasons included a performance for the 40th Anniversary Celebration of Music Before 1800 and a recital tour in Nova Scotia. With the Academy Players, the Academy’s instrumental ensemble, he has performed French and Italian trio sonatas. Jeremy performs with many period-instrument ensembles such as Trinity Baroque Orchestra, the Handel & Haydn Society, and the American Classical Orchestra. In recent summers, he has played orchestral music at the Lakes Area Music Festival in Brainerd, MN. Jeremy’s interests include 17th-century Italian oratorio and the relationship between the social and personal aspects of marriage and friendship.