Cher Public

Garden variety

Surprising Michal Czerniawski.

A small-scale concert performance of Handel’s Amadigi di Gaula by the Opera Settecento orchestra last Saturday night at St. George—Handel’s own parish church—fit perfectly into the venue, thanks to Leo Duarte‘s expansive conducting and a strong cast.  Read more »

Less than hero

“Venti turbini,” which should end the first act in a blaze of determined coloratura, lacked the needed razzle-dazzle.

Harry Bicket and his English Concert returned Sunday afternoon to Rinaldo for the sixth annual installment of their survey at Carnegie Hall of Handel’s operas and oratorios. Unfortunately the composer’s breakout London hit of 1711 proved one of the series’s weakest efforts so far in part due to a cruelly miscast Iestyn Davies in the crucial title role.  Read more »

Better call Saul

saul-amazonHandel’s dramatic oratorios are very difficult to stage—many clutch their pearls while bemoaning “…but they were never meant to be staged”—and require a vivid theatrical imagination to bring them to life. Director Barrie Kosky’s Glyndebourne 2015 production of Handel’s 1739 oratorio Saul (released on Opus Arte DVD) shows just such an imagination as well as a strong cast and design team. The familiar Biblical tale begins with the aftermath of David’s slaying of Goliath, and Kosky eschews any attempt at realism, leading us through the story in an almost dreamlike state.

Kosky calls himself an “extravagant minimalist” and here, the costumes are extravagant and the scenic elements minimal, both created with great style by designer Katrin Lea Tag. At the beginning, we see only the severed head of Goliath; after the prelude, we have decorated banquet tables reflecting the Israelites’ celebration of the victory of David. Read more »

Notes from the underground

Director R.B. Schlather and his team explored Handel’s Orlando and the results, as seen at Monday night’s final presentation, proved uncommonly stimulating.

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Isn’t it necromantic?

St. Paul’s Chapel is the perfect site for Saul, Handel’s finest dramatic oratorio.

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Saxon violence

His shaved head in striking contrast to his dark beard and glinting eyes, the implacable Tartar conqueror glowers at us from the CD cover, while the uncropped photo of countertenor Xavier Sabata (above) is even more disturbing, featuring his raised fist and forearm tightly wrapped in a leather belt.

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In witch we serve

Sunday afternoon’s intermittently involving concert performance of Handel’s Alcina at Carnegie Hall starred an unusually intense Joyce DiDonato as a powerful sorceress blinded by her romantic delusions.

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About last night

For those who like their Handel loud, with no forfeit of baroque finesse, one promising solution is to make the hall smaller.

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Twice on this island

Here’s a last-minute alert to a bit of baroque in downtown NYC: the project WhiteboxLab: SoundLounge will livestream performances of Handel’s Alcina tonight and tomorrow night (Sunday) starting each evening at 7:00 PM.

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Theodora goes wild

Joined by the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, The English Concert concluded the US leg of its current tour at Carnegie Hall Sunday with a complete performance of the darkly moving Theodora, Handel’s penultimate oratorio.

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