Baroque ‘Esther’ Oratorio’s Fate Overturned by Miraculous Rescue From Obscurity

By Penny Schwartz
Detail from 'The Wrath of Ahasuerus,' by Jan Steen, circa 1668. (Public domain)
BOSTON — An unusual, 18th century oratorio was nearly lost to history — until its circumstances were overturned and it was rescued from obscurity. Now, a production earlier this month by the Miryam Ensemble has brought the rarely performed “Esther” by Cristiano Giuseppe Lidarti to a new, 21st-century audience. Dated to 1774, the entire richly textured, Baroque oratorio is sung in Hebrew, with a libretto translated and adapted by the Venetian Rabbi Jacob Raphael ben Simah Judah Saraval. Based on the story of Esther, the heroine of Purim, the Hebrew version is an adapted translation of Handel’s 1732 English libretto. It is the only known full oratorio in Hebrew from the Baroque period, according to scholars. [More]
Esther Libretto Manuscript, c. 1774. Courtesy/Ets Haim – Livraria Montezinos, Amsterdam. (Ardon Bar-Hama)
Corey Dalton Hart, tenor, in the role of Mordocai in the March 2, 2019 Miryam Ensemble performance of Lidarti's 'Esther.' (Credit Daniel Lieber/courtesy Miryam Ensemble)