Here's a guide to the scholarly soprano Julianne Baird, who specializes in fitting music -- Handel's forgotten operas, lute songs, rags -- to its times.
Tailoring roles: Baird tells a revealing story concerning the first production of "The Marriage of Figaro," which she'll sample during tonight's Mozart concert with the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra. Nancy Storace (born Anna Selina), who premiered Susanna, had a habit of quitting performances when her voice quit on high Gs. Mozart kept her open and on stage by keeping Susanna's range within Nancy's range. Thanks to such tucking and nipping, the aria "Deh Vieni Non Tardar (Then Come, My Heart's Delight)" fits Baird like a bridal glove.
Filling vacuums: Baird insists that classical performances are too often divorced from their original social settings. In a recital companion to the recording "English Mad Songs and Ayres" (Dorian), she not only sings Henry Purcell's "Bess of Bedlam," she discusses an era when insane asylums exceeded zoos as a tourist attraction. "Instead of having them read copious program notes," notes Baird, "you present them."