Una furtiva lagrima – G. Donizetti – Caleb Wachira
“Una furtiva lagrima” (A furtive tear) is the romanza from the Italian opera L’elisir d’amore by Gaetano Donizetti. It is sung by Nemorino (tenor) who is in love with Adina, but she is not interested in a relationship with an innocent, rustic man. To win her heart, Nemorino buys a love potion with all the money he has in his pocket. That love potion is actually red wine sold by a traveling quack doctor, but when he sees Adina weeping, he knows that she has fallen in love with him, and he is sure that the “elixir” has worked.
Chacun le sait – G. Donizetti – Ruth Harley
“Chacun le sait” is from La fille du régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment) an opera by Gaetano Donizetti, first performed on 11 February 1840 by the Paris Opéra-Comique at the Salle de la Bourse. La fille du regiment quickly became a popular success partly because of the famous aria “Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!”, which requires the tenor to sing no fewer than eight high Cs. “Chacun le sait”, which you will hear today, is sung in the opera by Maria a young woman raised by a regiment of French Grenadiers: After inducting a young Tyrolese peasant into their regiment, the grenadiers call on Marie to sing the invigorating song of the regiment.
Lascia Ch’io Panga – G.F. Handel – Maryolive Mungai
“Lascia ch’io pianga”, originally “Lascia la spina, cogli la rosa”, is an Italian soprano aria by George Frideric Handel that has become a popular concert piece. Its melody is first found in act 3 of Handel’s 1705 opera Almira as a sarabande. Handel then used the tune for the aria “Lascia la spina, cogli la rosa”, or “Leave the Thorn, Take the Rose”, for the character Piacere in part 2 of his 1707 oratorio Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. Four years later, Handel used the music again, this time for his London opera Rinaldo and the aria “Lascia ch’io pianga” or “Let me weep”, a heartfelt plea for her liberty addressed by the character Almirena to her abductor Argante. Rinaldo was a triumph, and it is with this work that the aria is chiefly associated.
Ritorna o caro – G.F. Handel – Maryolive Mungai
“Ritorna o caro” is from the opera Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi, composed for the first Royal Academy of Music by George Frideric Handel, and long regarded as one of Handel’s greatest works. Rodelinda was first performed in London in1725. The action takes place in the 7th century. The title character, Rodelinda, is married to Bertarido, the rightful king of Milan, and the two have a young son, Flavio. But Bertarido’s throne has been usurped by Grimoaldo, a neighboring Duke, with help from his treacherous ally, Garibaldo. Bertarido was forced into exile, leaving Rodelinda behind. But, after faking his own death, he’s now back in Milan, in disguise. Grimoaldo doesn’t know this, and though he’s engaged to Bertarido’s sister Eduige, he has now decided that with Bertarido out of the picture, he wants Rodelinda instead. This aria is sung by Rodelinda.
For Behold/The people that walked – G.F. Handel – Anthony Mwangi
These excerpts from the Messiah by George Frideric Handel were written in 1741. The Messiah begins with the prophecy of Jesus’ birth, followed by the annunciation to the shepherds, and reflections on the Messiah’s deeds. This opening is sometimes called the “Christmas” portion as it is frequently performed during Advent. “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth” (Isaiah 60:2–3) is sung by the bass with a background of strings playing mysterious repeated motifs in major and minor seconds, followed by coloraturas on “glory” and an upward octave leap to proclaim in the end “to the brightness of thy rising”. Although the text of “The people that walked in darkness” is taken from a different chapter of Isaiah (Isaiah 9:2), Handel treats the aria as a continuation with similar motifs. The darkness is illustrated by the bass and the celli in unison. On “have seen a great light”, the melody begins to leap, and finally reaches on the word “light” a long high note which the voice holds, while the celli continue their movement. The next occurrence of “darkness” is a broken downward melisma. In the second verse of the text, the gloom of the beginning is intensified by similar unsupported figures on “shadow of death”, but once more relieved by “upon them has the light shined”, again with the voice singing independently.
Ten zegar Stary – S. Moniuscko – Jonathan Opinya
“Ten zegar Stary” is from Stanisław Moniuszko’s Straszny Dwór (The Haunted Manor) – the Polish national opera. Although the story is an elegant comedy about two brothers who vow to renounce women so they’ll always be ready to defend Poland, but fall in love with the daughters of the Sword Bearer, it’s really a patriotic piece, and was banned by the occupying Russians. That might explain why it’s also almost unknown outside Poland – even though it is considered by some to be one of the best operas ever composed. The opera abounds in elaborate ensembles that rank with the best of Rossini or Auber, bel canto lyricism, dancing rhythms and imaginative instrumentation.
Non so piu cosa son – W.A. Mozart – Jacqui May Ombara
The Marriage of Figaro is an opera buffa (comic opera) in four acts composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with an Italian libretto written by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1786. The opera’s libretto is based on the 1784 stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (“The Mad Day, or The Marriage of Figaro”). It tells how the servants Figaro and Susanna succeed in getting married, foiling the efforts of their philandering employer Count Almaviva to seduce Susanna and teaching him a lesson in fidelity.
Considered one of the greatest operas ever written, it appears consistently among the top ten most frequently performed operas.
O Holy Night – A. Adam – Caleb and Maryolive
“O Holy Night” is a well-known Christmas carol. Originally based on a French-language poem by poet Placide Cappeau, written in 1843, with the first line “Minuit, chrétiens! c’est l’heure solennelle” (Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour) that composer Adolphe Adam set to music in 1847. The English version is by John Sullivan Dwight. The carol reflects on the birth of Jesus as humanity’s redemption.
Der Hölle Rache – W.A. Mozart- Ruth Harley
“Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (“Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart”), commonly abbreviated “Der Hölle Rache”, is an aria sung by the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. It depicts a fit of vengeful rage in which the Queen of the Night places a knife into the hand of her daughter Pamina and exhorts her to assassinate Sarastro, the Queen’s rival, else she will disown and curse Pamina. Memorable, fast-paced, and menacingly grandiose, “Der Hölle Rache” is one of the most famous of all opera arias.
Lord God of Abraham – F. Mendelssohn – Anthony Mwangi
“Lord God of Abraham” is from Elijah an oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn depicting events in the life of the Prophet Elijah as told in the Old Testament. It premiered on 26 August 1846. This piece was composed in the spirit of Mendelssohn’s Baroque predecessors Bach and Handel, whose music he greatly admired. Elijah is modelled on the oratorios of these two Baroque masters; however, in its lyricism and use of orchestral and choral colour the style clearly reflects Mendelssohn’s own genius as a composer. As one critic wrote of the premiere: “Never was there a more complete triumph – never a more thorough and speedy recognition of a great work of art”.
‘Ombra mai fu’ – G.F. Handel – Jacqui May Ombara
“Ombra mai fu”, also known as “Largo from Xerxes”, is the opening aria from the 1738 opera Serse by George Frideric Handel. At the time, the opera was a commercial failure, lasting only five performances in London. In the 19th century, however, the aria was rediscovered and became one of Handel’s best-known pieces. The title translates from the Italian as “Never was a shade”. It is sung by the main character, Xerxes I of Persia, admiring the shade of a plane tree. Originally composed to be sung by a soprano castrato (and typically sung in modern performances of Serse by a countertenor, contralto or a mezzo-soprano), it has been arranged for other voices and instruments, including solo organ, solo piano, violin and piano, and string ensembles.
Non Piu Andrai – W.A. Mozart – Jonathan Opinya
“Non più andrai” (You shall go no more) is an aria for bass from Mozart’s 1786 opera The Marriage of Figaro. It is sung by Figaro at the end of the first act. Count Almaviva finds Cherubino hiding in Susanna’s quarters. The Count was already suspicious that Cherubino had designs on his wife, Countess Rosina, and overall disapproves of his loose lifestyle. However, he cannot punish Cherubino, as he himself was only in Susanna’s quarters to proposition her. The Count sends Cherubino away instead, to his regiment in Seville. In this aria, Figaro teases Cherubino about his Spartan military future, in stark contrast with the pleasant and flirtatious life he has enjoyed in the Count’s palace. The catchy tune and stirring military accompaniment have made this aria popular from the very beginning and has been called the most famous aria in the opera.
Quando m’en vo. – G. Puccini – Ruth Harley
“Quando me’n vo”, also known as “Musetta’s Waltz”, is a soprano aria, of Puccini’s 1896 opera La bohème. It is sung by Musetta, in the presence of her bohemian friends, hoping to reclaim the attention of her occasional boyfriend Marcello. This scene takes place at the Café Momus. Shortly after Mimì, Rodolfo and their friends have taken seats for a drink, Marcello’s former girlfriend, Musetta, shows up with her current patron, the elderly Alcindoro. They quarrel for a bit, then the episode begins as Musetta initiates her move on Marcello. She grabs the spotlight, musically speaking, for this short self-promoting aria. It is a song directed at the people in the café as much as at the audience in the theatre.
Flower Duet – L. Delibes – Ruth and May
The Flower Duet is a duet for soprano and mezzo-soprano in the first act of Léo Delibes’ opera Lakmé, premiered in Paris in 1883. It is sung by the characters Lakmé, daughter of a Brahmin priest, and her servant Mallika, as they go to gather flowers by a river. The duet is frequently used in advertisements and films and is popular as a concert piece.
O mio babbino Caro – G. Puccini – Ruth Harley
“O mio babbino Caro” is by Giacomo Puccini an Italian composer known primarily for his operas. Regarded as the greatest and most successful proponent of Italian opera after Verdi, he was descended from a long line of composers, stemming to the late-Baroque era. “O mio babbino caro” (“Oh my dear papa”) is a soprano aria from the opera Gianni Schicchi. It is sung by Lauretta after tensions between her father Schicchi and the family of Rinuccio, the boy she loves, have reached a breaking point that threatens to separate her from Rinuccio. It provides an interlude expressing lyrical simplicity and love in contrast with the atmosphere of hypocrisy, jealousy, double-dealing, and feuding in medieval Florence. The aria is frequently performed in concerts and as an encore in recitals by many singers.
“Largo al factotum” – G. Rossini- Caleb Wachira
“Largo al factotum” (Make way for the factotum) is an aria from The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini, sung at the first entrance of the title character, Figaro. The repeated “Figaro”s before the final patter section are an icon in popular culture of operatic singing. The term “factotum” refers to a general servant and comes from Latin where it literally means “do everything”.
Jacqui May Ombara is a performer and vocal instructor. She is a chorister at the All Saints’Cathedral Nairobi and a resident conductor at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music Symphony and Women’s Orchestras. She is also the music director of the Junior Chamber Orchestra. May is also a member of ‘The Four Sopranos’, an all-female quartet.
Ruth Harley is a 25 year old soprano from the UK who grew up in rural Bedfordshire in the English countryside. Ruth has a passion for singing, she has a background in musical theatre and loves to sing opera. Whilst studying at Bournemouth University she was a musical scholar and sang in many recitals and was also a frequent soloist in the university’s operatic productions. Since completing her studies, Ruth has travelled widely to China, India the Philippines and across Europe. During this time she has continued to study opera privately and she also has sung with opera choruses at Opera de Bauge in France and Dorset Opera in England. Ruth was based for a year in Berlin learning from great teachers and whilst there was also a street performer – which gave her the opportunity to express herself and share her passion with a wider audience. Whilst in Germany, she also had a role in the Netflix film ‘Munich’ which is due to be released later this year. Ruth is currently in Kenya because she initiated and is managing a music project called “The Women’s Vinyl Project” in which she works with women and girls to create new music to help end FGM. The final results of this project will be released next year to help raise international awareness of FGM and to raise money for communities which need support.
Maryolive Mungai is a singer and performing artist based in Nairobi. A natural soprano with an exceptionally distinctive and expressive voice who is equally at home singing opera and contemporary music. She is passionate about the arts, having performed in numerous concerts and musical productions in Nairobi, Operas around East Africa (Ondieki the Fisherman by Baraka Opera Productions, Marriage of Figaro, Hansel & Gretel and Barber of Seville by Operation Classics Productions), Kenya Conservatoire of Music concerts, Fret Venture concerts by Manaseh Uzele and many more. She has studied and performed both locally (Kenya Conservatoire of Music and Technical University of Kenya) and internationally (Liverpool, United Kingdom). Her most memorable performance in Liverpool, was performing for the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Tony Concepcion, during the Liverpool Commonwealth Association celebrations in 2016. She attained a First-Class Honours in her Bachelors music degree at Technical University of Kenya and was the years Valedictorian. She has performed for our President in 2017 and won the award for Best Classical Act during the Café Ngoma Award show in 2017. Maryolive performs and writes her own music. She was nominated for Best Experimental Music in 2020 by Sondeka Awards . She recently performed as a Principal role in the Opera, Nyanga: The Runaway Grandmother by Baraka Opera Trust, staged in October 2021. Maryolive continues to grace new heights in performance and hopes to inspire and mentor the youth through music and art disciplines. She works as a music teacher at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music and Kenton College.
Caleb Wachira is a music director, a music educator and a performer. He is the Music Director at Khweva Arts Company. With Khweva, he has composed and directed the music for a number of African-story Musicals such as “Rira” staged at Braeburn School theatre, amongst other productions in different theaters in Kenya. Wachira is also the music director at Aperture Africa where he directed the music for the award-winning musical Cinderella. He is the choir director at the Lenana School, a private voice and woodwind tutor and a classically trained singer. He has worked as a music instructor at the Precious Blood Girls High school and continues to volunteer as music instructor at the Starehe Boys Centre and School, his former High School. Wachira is currently teaching voice and woodwind at the SABIS international school. Wachira is a tenor known for his role as a soloist for the Nairobi Music Society. His first big role was in Handel’s Israel in Egypt as a tenor soloist. He later took the role of “Figaro” in the opera “The Barber of Seville”- a production by OPERAtion Classics. He has sung in various Operas, recitals and concerts around East Africa. He is currently the assistant vocal director and a lead role in the Kenyan Opera “Nyanga Runway Grandmother”; a production by the Baraka Opera Trust.
Jonathan Wamukota Opinya is a classically trained vocalist, now based in Nairobi after finishing his studies at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in the Tel Aviv University, Israel. His studies included public performances in his capacity as a choral vocalist, soloist and actor. This versatility has seen him venture into the realms of world music, musicals and jazz and has now taken him toward an exploration of Music as a tool for Therapeutic purposes.
Anthony Mwangi is a Passionate, dedicated and self-motivated Opera singer, music performer and teacher with experience also in playing piano, the organ and percussion instruments. He always seeks new and exciting challenges, successfully utilizing his talent, voice, skills and experiences gained in an environment that provides career growth; Striving to make positive change in life and the society as he equips students with performance, composition, and theoretical skills while also being extremely meticulous and pursuing the highest excellence while on the performing stage. He has worked with the Nairobi Music Society as a Soloist and Choral singer, Director of Choir, All Saints’ Cathedral, Nairobi, SfP Conductors Organisation, UK, Main Cast member in Nyanga, An Opera that premiered in October in Nairobi, KE, an Educator, Choral principal and Conductor in various institutions and organisations in Kenya & more so, a philomath (one who loves learning) and melophile (one who loves music).
1st Violins: Miranda Stobbs (leader), James Laight, Hugo De Groote, Kena Kariuki 2nd Violins: Cynthia Mungai, Joy Kiniaru, Mercy Kimuyu, Stella Karani, Eva Kimenye, Fredrick Lameck Viola: Maartje Rosenstok, Maya Oluoch-Olunya, Birte Mensing Celli: Sally Davies, Christoph Zipfel, Frederik Eijkman, Antisha Ssuna, Mary Odhiambo Double Bass: Reint Rosenstok, Frida Towett Flutes: Rachel Lusava (& Piccolo), Joseph Kamau Clarinet: Owino Lewisky, David Mwenje Oboe: Isaac Rutenberg French Horn: Shaka Marko, Cyndicate Kabei Trumpet: Bill Rowe, Andy Stephens Trombone: Jenny Wafula Percussion: Grace Muriithi Keyboard: James Laight Harp: Samskara Shah
“I would like to express my gratitude to the performers today – the singers, the pianist (Benaars Ongidi), Levi Wataka (the conductor) and the Orchestra for their willingness and enthusiasm to put on this concert – the first we have put on since 2019! This is certainly overdue, but with so many unknowns, it has been difficult to plan and execute. We hope that in the coming year we will be able, as a Society to resume our choral rehearsals, and put on some recitals as well as our annual concerts at Easter and Christmas. I am particularly grateful to James Laight for all his support.
We are grateful to Kenya Conservatoire of Music for access to rehearsal facilities.” Francis Oludhe Macgoye – Chairman