Chorus Austin Offers Rarely Heard Lidarti Oratorio Esther in Hebrew

Hidden from the world after only a few performances more than two centuries ago.

Brought out for the modern era with only a few more presentations.

The intriguing oratorio Esther by Cristiano Giuseppe Lidarti is now on its way to the Austin community. Chorus Austin will present this rarely heard jewel at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22, and 4 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 8134 Mesa Dr.

The 180 voices of Chorus Austin’s Symphonic Chorus, under the baton of Chorus Austin Artistic Director Ryan Heller, will perform the recently rediscovered work in Hebrew with orchestra and soloist Meredith Ruduski, soprano, as Esther. Other soloists are Janeene Williams, soprano, as the Israelite Woman; Steven Brennfleck, tenor, as Ahasveros; Albert Garcia, tenor, as Mordechai; Gil Zilkha, bass, as Haman; and Aaron Coronado, tenor, Harbona.

“New music plays an important part in the programming of Chorus Austin,” Heller said, “and our offering of this long-neglected masterpiece is an excellent fit for us.”

Composed in 1774 as a commission for the Jewish community in Amsterdam, Lidarti collaborated with Jacob Raphael ben Simhah Judah Saraval (a Venetian-born Rabbi) on the libretto. “Handel’s oratorio of the same title had already enjoyed success,” Heller said, “and the pair decided to translate Handel’s English libretto into Hebrew, make adaptations and create Lidarti’s oratorio. After its original performances, the work would languish on bookshelves for more than two centuries.”

The re-discovery of Esther in 1998 by a Cambridge University professor returned a masterpiece to the world, Heller noted. “I first heard a reading of several choruses from the work at a Chorus America conference in 2014 and knew I had to bring the work to our Austin community,” the conductor said, noting that an extended piece in Hebrew is a welcome addition to the repertoire for orchestras and choruses.

“We are thrilled to offer this unique opportunity to hear Lidarti’s great oratorio in a live performance,” Heller said, “one of very few to ever take place in the United States.”