By Jeremy Rhizor
I am very pleased to present the first issue of the Academy Journal. It is a major step in the direction of building a community of thought around the music and stories of oratorios. Over the past year and a half, the Academy of Sacred Drama produced Oratorio Readings of five rarely-heard Baroque-era oratorios with the help of 67 volunteers in order to begin to build this community. These were paired with potluck dinners and experiments from a social game built on the story of Susanna to reflections on excerpts from Ishmael. As the Academy community continued to grow, I revisited some of my original goals for the organization including talks by guest speakers and a publication. I originally intended to include talks on contextually related material in place of the sermons that were placed between the halves of many Baroque-era oratorios. The North American Premiere of Giovanni Battista Bassani’s Jonah (Giona) marks a return to this model with a talk by Dr. Eric Bianchi on the intellectual and cultural context for Baroque-era oratorio.
The performance of Bassani’s Jonah also launches our Amateur Performance Initiative, in which gifted amateurs have the opportunity to participate in the performance of selected movements of the oratorio. An amateur viola da gamba player will participate in select movements of the first half of the Jonah performance. This is one of five new programs that the Academy now offers its members. Our goal with our membership programs is to unite the abilities and skills of professionals and amateurs of various fields in an effort to shed some light on the largely unexplored world of Baroque-era oratorio.
The launch of the Academy Journal is the most visible element of the Academy’s renewal and expansion. It is designed to be a central resource for the world of sacred dramatic music.
In order to start to fulfill that function, we are offering a calendar of oratorios and reviews of performances of note. In this issue, Christopher Browner reviews the Modern Day World Premiere of Bonaventura Aliotti’s Santa Rosalia that occurred at Trinity Church, Manhattan on June 1st. The reconstruction and rediscovery of forgotten oratorios is a central component of our mission, and we are excited that New York Baroque Incorporated undertook this project.
The second essential part of the Academy Journal is the exploration of the story and themes of Academy Oratorio Readings with articles by members of the extended Academy community. In this inaugural issue, Dr. Michael Shulman explores Jewish perspectives on the Jonah story, and Rev. Kevin Wright approaches themes of hope and obedience in the Jonah story through Christian perspectives. Dr. Ann Plogsterth also offers a narrative on the changing emphasis of visual artists as they sought to depict the Jonah story.
And finally, an exploration of this type would not be possible without a clear and intelligently crafted English translation of the original Italian text which until a couple months ago was unavailable. Dr. Elisabeth Pace created the first English translation of the libretto by Ambrosio Ambrossini which was the basis for Bassani’s oratorio. She made it possible for us to undertake this communal and in-depth exploration of Bassani’s Jonah.
We call this first issue of the Academy Journal Volume Beta. It is an experiment in which we are trying out a new Academy Journal website, creating the fresh design of a new printed journal, and going through a new editorial process with our gifted editor, Kate Brecee. The Academy Journal will continue to grow and be refined from this point. Be we are excited about its launch and are happy to finally be able to share the fruit of much labor. We hope you enjoy it.
With gratitude to you for being part of our community,
Academy Journal Beta.1, 2-3 (2017) · CC BY-NC-ND license