Everybody loves David: Handel’s Saul at Glyndebourne

Barrie Kosky’s vividly abstract production of Saul for Glyndebourne embraces every emotional detail of this dramatic oratorio, from its exhilarating choruses to its raw, intimate family scenes. Kosky adds voices beyond Handel’s music: we hear laughs, shouts, cries, sobs, sighs, gasps, even spoken words around and between the score, fleshing out each moment with human detail.…

Queen’s dating dilemma: Handel’s Partenope at Iford

Partenope is a perfect comic storm of seduction, jealousy, fidelity and infidelity, gender-bending and downright skulduggery, anchored in the sharp human tension of true love. Many of these tropes are familiar Handel fare, but Partenope is set apart by the unnerving genuineness of its emotional dynamics, which ripple and transform from scene to scene, as the game of…

Resurrection par excellence: Handel’s Messiah, Merry Opera

We gather in the glorious Arts and Crafts surroundings of Our Lady Star of the Sea, Lowestoft, one of Suffolk’s most beautiful Catholic churches, on a summery April evening while the kittiwakes scream overhead. Merry Opera’s cast gradually file in, dressed in everyday clothes: twelve men and women from all walks of life, approaching the…

Rodelinda, Handel: Cambridge Handel Opera Company

Cambridge Handel Opera Company (CHOC) celebrates the fusion of music and the stage with performances that are not just ‘historically informed’, but ‘historically inspired’. Led from the harpsichord by Artistic Director Julian Perkins, the company combines period instrumentalists from the ensemble Sounds Baroque with advanced students. The cast brings together young professional solo singers for what promises to be…

Handel’s Messiah: Bristol Old Vic

Inspired by Handel’s profound religious masterpiece, this acclaimed Bristol Old Vic production provides a rare chance to experience a powerfully dramatic account of Messiah and to rediscover the intense spirituality of its many well-known arias and choruses. Described by the critics as an ‘astonishingly beautiful’ (The Stage), ‘direct and impactful interpretation’ (The Times), this dramatised…

Heartworn hoodlums: Handel’s Rodelinda, ENO

Even ruthless, psychotic gangsters have to fall in love sometimes. And Rodelinda is all about what happens when the people at the top of the cruel power pyramid have got their minds on… other things, like other people’s faithful wives, as well as their crime kingdoms. Director Richard Jones translates Rodelinda’s setting (originally 7th century Lombardy) to gangster warfare…

Dark, desperate, magnificent: Handel’s Jephtha, Iford

As Handel wrote Jephtha‘s haunting central chorus, “How dark, O Lord, are thy decrees,” his own sight temporarily failed him, and he had to break off work. Although he would live for another eight years, Jephtha would prove to be Handel’s last oratorio: a disturbing story from the eleventh chapter of the Book of Judges, in which the…

Small palette, big picture: Handel’s Acis and Galatea in Cambridge

Handel’s “little opera” Acis and Galatea suffers from something of an identity crisis: it exists in three versions, and has also been put forward as a candidate for at least three genres: masque, opera or serenata. It is certainly an unusual piece: small, with a fast-paced but surprisingly simple plot taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and voiced by the…

A dusty curio: Handel’s Berenice, regina d’Egitto

One of the main reasons Berenice, regina d’Egitto is performed so rarely is its notable lack of dramatic punch. Taut and skilful playing from La Nuova Musica, conducted from the harpsichord with joyful dynamism by David Bates, and some excellent singing, made for an evening of gorgeous music, if not dramatic excitement, at the Church…

Fool for love: Handel’s Orlando at the Barbican

Some operas are just begging for a strapline: and if Orlando had one, it would surely be “Dorinda’s Dreadful Day”. First, Dorinda is plagued by doubts that the handsome African prince Medoro truly loves her (which he doesn’t), but optimistically decides to give him the benefit of the doubt, because she loves him. Then she’s informed…