Cher Public

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

One of the “smaller” opera events in New York City that got the biggest buzz last year occurred not in a traditional performance space but at WhiteboxLab > Sound Lounge, an art gallery in Chinatown. Director R.B. Schlather and his team returned there this month to explore Handel’s Orlando and the results, as seen at Monday night’s final presentation, proved uncommonly stimulating.   Read more »

Isn’t it necromantic?

St. Paul’s Chapel is the perfect site for Saul, Handel’s finest dramatic oratorio. Not only are the acoustics brilliant, but Paul’s name was actually Saul before that unfortunate DUI on the road to Damascus. Accordingly, the Trinity Baroque Orchestra and the choir of Trinity Wall Street presented the piece on Friday night as part of the annual Twelfth Night Festival, fully staged as is currently the fashion for concert oratorios, and will repeat the event on Sunday at three.  Read more »

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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Herself you shall adore

From an early Mike Richter CD-ROM, “Odd Opera” comes this gem, a live performance of Handel’s Semele at Carnegie Hall on February 23, 1985, the 300th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

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Teen queen

Handel’s first surviving musical composition is Almira, the opera he wrote in a hurry when shake-ups at the Hamburg opera house, where the 19-year-old had been playing in the violin section, left a planned production unfinished.

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