It’s not unusual for interviews to be interrupted, but this is a first: outside countertenor Reginald Mobley’s Boston home, a Google Street View car is driving by, and the singer has put down his phone to wave. “That’s cool,” he comments, once the vehicle has passed. “It’s like seeing a shooting star.”
But did he make a wish?
“I have now,” he says, with an uproarious laugh.
We know enough about wishing to press no further, but those who enjoy hearing a glorious voice sing works by the greatest composers of the baroque era are about to have their dreams come true. Mobley, who’s already won many local admirers with previous Vancouver Bach Festival appearances, returns this year to sing Antonio Vivaldi’s Cessate, omai cessate and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Ich habe genug, accompanied by virtuoso lutenist Stephen Stubbs and his Pacific MusicWorks ensemble.
The stars have surely aligned to make this a festival highlight—and Mobley’s taking steps to ensure that it’s a dramatic success, too. Not content to simply sing the material, he’s constructed a narrative link between the two cantatas that will allow him to move seamlessly between Vivaldi’s forsaken lover and Bach’s world-weary soul.
Cessate, omai cessate’s protagonist, he explains, “spends his time lamenting that his love is more or less spurning him, and probably intentionally. Like, ‘I am basically being tortured by Dorilla, by the person that I love. And I know that she’s torturing me on purpose, but I can’t help myself because I am so madly in love.’
“The way Vivaldi sets the text,” he continues, “it definitely goes back and forth from this plaintive, lamenting aria to this dramatic rage where I’m just kind of losing myself in rage over what’s going on.…And my rage is against the fact that my shackles are my love for her.”
In contrast, Ich habe genug is a renunciation of worldly pleasure, and worldly pain. “It’s, you know, ‘I’ve had enough. I’m done with the world, and I’m ready to be released from another set of shackles, which is mortal life,’ ” Mobley notes. “And for me, there is kind of a line that I’ve built—my own personal narrative—from the Vivaldi to the Bach. In the Vivaldi, I basically deal with being spurned and being tortured and saying that I can never find this happiness that I’m seeking, and all there is is pain, even in the things that I should enjoy. And then [with Bach] it takes a religious turn, saying that there really is no ultimate or perfect joy to be found on Earth, but that I can find peace in accepting the life hereafter, accepting eternal rest.
“And there’s something that can be missed in the Bach cantata, which is that it’s not sad,” he adds. “There’s nothing sad about this cantata: it’s more or less about the peace you can find in resignation, and the excitement of seeing that there is a hereafter, and finding something new.”
The Vancouver Bach Festival presents Reginald Mobley and Pacific MusicWorks in Musica Transalpina: From Vivaldi to Bach at Christ Church Cathedral next Thursday (August 2)