On November 21, 22 and 23, British conductor and early music specialist Nicholas McGegan will lead Handel's glorious L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato at the David Koch Theater as part of Lincoln Center's White Light Festival. The performance will feature the Mark Morris Dance Group, the MMDG Music Ensemble, the Riverside Choral Society Chamber Singers, and soloists-- soprano Dominique Labelle, soprano Yulia Van Doren, tenor John McVeigh and bass-baritone Douglas Williams. The White Light Festival performances mark the 25th anniversary of L'Allegro's premiere at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels. The final performance, on November 23, which also closes the Festival, takes place 25 years to the day of its first performance in 1988. There will be a pre-performance discussion with Mark Morris and Ara Guzelimian on November 22 at 6:15 PM in the David Rubenstein Atrium, Broadway between West 62nd and West 63rd Streets. Tickets are available online at WhiteLightFestival.org, by calling CenterCharge at 212-721-6500, or at the Avery Fisher or Alice Tully Hall box offices, Broadway and 65th Street. Dan Dutcher and Amanda Coleman had the opportunity to talk to Mr. McGegan about the upcoming performances.
Dan Dutcher and Amanda Coleman: As part of Lincoln Center's White Light Festival, you will conduct Handel's L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. Can you please tell us a bit about what it's like to conduct so many different people and groups all at once? What is the rehearsal process like?
Nicholas McGegan: I have conducted this production many times over the past two decades. For me, it is always a tremendous delight to see Handel's music interpreted so magically by Mark and his amazing dancers. As the conductor I get a terrific view, too! Practically every time I have done the piece the musical ensemble has been different: there are often different soloists, sometimes a different choir or orchestra. This time the soloists are familiar but the choir and orchestra will be new to me. I hope that by now I have a pretty good idea of how Mark wants the music to go and my job is to make that happen. Mark is the most musical of choreographers so it is always a joy to work with him.
DD and AC: Is there a particular artist/orchestra that you would love to perform with and why?
NMcG: I am lucky that I work so often with very close musical friends. However it is always exciting to add to this circle. I know Douglas Williams, the baritone in L'Allegro, but we have never actually worked together before. That will be great fun.
DD and AC: Was there a defining moment when you decided that music would be your life?
NMcG: Not one ‘Road to Damascus' moment that I can recall. Music has always been part of my life. As a teenager I enjoyed composing (a nice bonfire got rid of those efforts). At university I wanted to read Classics, but then I changed to Music (modern mostly) but then became fascinated with Early Music and started to play period instruments. Conducting has happened by accident, I suppose. However there are plenty of other things in my life besides music. Since I travel a good deal, I have become a bit of a "gastronaut," and love to try wines from around the world too. Art history (it's in my blood) is a passion, so I try to visit any gallery near where I am performing.
DD and AC: What's coming up next for you this year?
NMcG: Next year promises to be a busy one with a good deal of travelling. I am thrilled to be working with Mark Morris on a new production of Handel's Acis and Galatea in an orchestration by Mozart. It will be wonderful to have Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale in the pit as well at the premiere in Berkeley, California. In addition I will take up new appointments in Pasadena and Adelaide, as well as tour New Zealand…. Luckily, I like to travel.
DD and AC: Any specific classical music recording that you couldn't live without?
NMcG: This is the "which classical recording would you take to you desert island" question! It is a tough one.
I am not sure that I really need recordings to help me remember the music…. There's plenty swirling around in my head. My favorite recordings, the ones I couldn't live without, are those of my friends. What the actual music is, is not that important. For me then, my "must have" would have to be a performance by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (perhaps the Neruda songs). So many happy memories would come flooding back.
Dan Dutcher owns and Amanda Coleman is a publicist at Dan Dutcher Public Relations.