Handel's oratorio Joshua was completed in 1747 and is the last of a consecutive run of four oratorios with military themes (the others are The Occasional Oratorio, Judas Maccabaeus, and Alexander Balus). The libretto by Thomas Morell is taken from the Old Testament book of Joshua, and conflates a number of episodes that relate to the hero's campaigns against Jericho, Ai, and the five Kings. To avoid what would otherwise have been an almost continuous succession of warlike episodes, Morell expands the biblical roles of the young warrior Othniel and his betrothed Achsah, the daughter of the elderly patriarchal warrior Caleb.
James Rutherford sings "Shall I in Mamre's fertile plain":
Joshua is divided into three acts, the first of which immediately establishes the grand scale of the work in the opening scenes celebrating the Jews' miraculous passage across the Jordan, the conclusion of 40 years in the wilderness. In Act II, Joshua is in the process of laying siege to Jericho, and orders the famous final trumpet call and the walls fall. Act III includes some of Handel's best music, including Caleb's "Shall I in Mamre's fertile plain" and the great choral showstopper "See the conq'ring hero comes." It also includes one of the composer's most famous arias, Achsah's "Oh! had I Jubel's lyre."
Performances are on December 1 in San Francisco Friday December 2 in Palo Alto, December 3 in Berkeley and December 4 in Lafayette. Tickets are available online
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