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SFRV will celebrate Purim with an 18th-century opera in Hebrew about Esther

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As I have previously reported, the title of the 2013–14 season of San Francisco Renaissance Voices (SFRV) is Kol Israel: The Voice of Judaism in Early Music, a series of programs curated by Rabbi Reuben Zellman, currently completing a Master of Music degree at San Francisco State University in the area of early music and the Jewish choral repertoire. Last season Zelman was one of the performers in the SFRV production of The Play of Daniel; and the jewel in this season’s crown, so to speak, will be another semi-staged production. This will be the opera Esther, composed by Cristiano Giuseppe Lidarti for the Jewish Portuguese Community in Amsterdam in 1774.

The opera itself has an interesting history. The libretto was prepared by Rabbi Jacob Saraval, who took the libretto for George Frideric Handel’s 1718 HWV 50 Esther oratorio (performed last summer by the American Bach Soloists) and translated it into Hebrew. (Ironically, HWV 50 was Handel’s first major setting of a text in the English language.) Records are unclear as to whether Lidarti’s opera was performed during his lifetime, and the score was only recently rediscovered in 1999. SFRV will present four performances that will provide this music with its United States premiere.

The San Francisco performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 22. As with other SFRV concerts, the venue will be the Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church (1329 Seventh Avenue, located just south of Golden Gate Park and near the Muni N Line stop at the corner of Irving Street and Seventh Avenue). Tickets are $30 for general admission, $25 for students and seniors, and $20 for children under twelve years of age. They may be purchased in advance through a Brown Paper Tickets event page. In addition, Zellman will be giving a pre-concert talk, which will begin at 6:45 p.m.

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