The Festival opens on August 5, with Jeffrey Thomas conducting the period-instrument experts of ABS and the American Bach Choir in large-scale sacred works from Baroque Italy. By command of the Church, opera was forbidden when George Frideric Handel arrived in Rome in 1707. Undeterred, the young visitor from Hamburg composed elaborate and highly dramatic works for Roman Carmelite Vespers services including his tour-de-force Dixit Dominus for chorus, orchestra, and vocal soloists, and several motets including Saeviat tellus inter rigores, a setting for virtuoso soprano. Meanwhile, in Venice, Antonio Vivaldi was establishing his own lofty standards for church music at the Ospedale della Pietà. Writing for an ensemble of young women virtuoso instrumentalists and singers, his Salve Regina and Gloria are models of the Italian style, which balances poignant expression with fiery virtuosity.