Queen Esther, Oratorio

Opus: 279 Year: 1959 
Ensemble
Soprano, Tenor, Baritone, Narrator, 2 Choirs, Symphonic Orchestra: 2/pic,2,2/bc,2-3,3,3,1-timp+2-hp,cel-str
DURATION
60:00 min

Queen Esther performance at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco

Queen Esther performance at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco

(We apologize for the sound quality – this is an amateur recording by a member of the audience in the 1960 performance)

Excerpts from a live concert at the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, California.
Performers: Leona Gordon, Soprano; Cantor Josef R. Cycowski, Baritone; Desire Ligeti, Baritone; Leonard Wechs, Tenor; Dr. Howard Thurman, Narrator; Marc Lavry, Conductor; The San Francisco State College Choral Union; The San Francisco Municipal Chorus; Members of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

Lyrics: Book of Esther (Bible), set by Mrs. Helena Lavry

Publisher: The Marc Lavry Heritage Society

Synopsis:
Commissioned by Cantor Roman Cycowski on behalf of Congregation Beth Israel in San Francisco for its centennial celebration.

Queen Esther - Marc Lavry with the soloists and dignitaries at the after-party

Queen Esther – Marc Lavry with the soloists and dignitaries at the after-party

While at Beth Israel, Cycowski commissioned Marc Lavry, a composer in Israel, to write a cantata, “Queen Esther.” Performed by members of the San Francisco Symphony and soloists from the San Francisco Opera, it was presented to a sold-out house at the War Memorial Opera House. (Leslie Katz, for Jweekly)

 

Ideation process for the opera Queen Esther: Helena Lavry wrote the verses and Marc Lavry jotted ideas (for himself)

Ideation process for the opera Queen Esther: Helena Lavry wrote the verses and Marc Lavry jotted ideas (for himself)

Mrs. Helena Lavry used the text of the biblical book of “Esther” and with Lavry’s flare for drama they made a passionate oratorio.
The opening theme of the oratorio is based on an old Persian melody thus setting the era and mood. Each character has its own theme and one can sense his personalities through the music. One can therefore easily hear King Ahasuerus foolishness, Haman’s wickedness or Mordechai’s Jewishness.

 

Queen Esther Program (signed by Marc Lavry)

Queen Esther Program (signed by Marc Lavry)

There are two choirs: the Kingdom’s choir and the Jews choir, both acting like the chorus in a Greek Drama. The peak of the Drama is when the two choruses join in “To destroy, to kill all the Jews…” Each chorus sings the same text fitted to their context – one as a decree and the other as a lament.

The Narrator’s role is to fill the unsung text from the bible.

The finale “And the City of Shushan Rejoiced and was Glad” is a typical Lavry sound and rhythms. The composition ends with the original Persian motif from the opening.