wed 01/02/2023

Handel

Kristian Bezuidenhout, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Wigmore Hall review - fires of London

A dream pairing of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and early-keyboard wizard Kristian Bezuidenhout marked St Cecilia’s Day at the Wigmore Hall with a programme that celebrated music made not in the Black Forest but beside the Thames.Both halves of...

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Alcina, Royal Opera review - sharp stage magic, mist over the pit

Handel’s audiences must have taken a very long time to settle – at least an act, to judge from the mostly inconsequential music of Alcina’s first hour. Lovely: we’re on an enchanted isle where puritanical people have been transformed into animal-...

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Tamerlano, English Touring Opera review - the darker side of Handel

During the final act of Tamerlano, James Conway’s new production for English Touring Opera has the titular tyrant lead a captive king around the stage on a chain. Given the oppressive, deadlocked mood of Handel’s opera and this interpretation, you...

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Classical CDs: Death, dragons and sea shanties

 The Playhouse Sessions: Bjarte Eike, Barokksolistene (Rubicon)The Playhouse Sessions is a follow-up to the irresistible Alehouse Sessions, in which Bjarte Eikke and his Barokksolistene recreate a 17th century London pub gig, where sea shanties...

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Saul, The English Concert, Butt, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - properly exciting music drama

It’s not an opera, of course, but of all Handel’s oratorios, Saul is probably the one that is best suited to being presented as an actual drama. Several productions, most notably Barrie Kosky's at Glyndebourne, have shown how it can work on stage,...

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Prom 43, Solomon, The English Concert, Jeannin review - a Handelian box of delights

Like many people, I grew up with cut-and-paste Handel. It could take decades before you found out where that shiny snippet of a childhood earworm truly belonged.A full-length Solomon, for instance – as delivered by The English Concert with a luxury...

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Alcina, Glyndebourne review - Handel on the strand

Reviewing the Grange Festival production of Tamerlano the other day, I noted the difficulty Handel poses the modern director with his byzantine plots and often ludicrous love tangles, expressed through music of surpassing brilliance but mostly...

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Tamerlano, The Grange Festival review - Handel brilliant in parts, but you have to wait for the drama

Handel’s operas have long posed, and still pose, severe problems for the modern theatre, and especially the modern director – all those endless streams of wonderful but emotionally more or less generalised arias hitched to interchangeable...

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Serse, The English Concert, St Martin-in-the-Fields review - star turns from five remarkable women

You know great singing when you hear it. In Handel, for me, that was when Lucy Crowe took over a Göttingen gala back in 2013; in Mozart, most recently, it came from Emily D’Angelo making her Royal Opera debut in La clemenza di Tito. Last night, in...

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Alcina, Opera North review - flat update redeemed by excellent vocal performances

This new production of Handel’s Alcina opens well, with no preamble, the protagonists’ arrival on the island inhabited by the titular sorceress suggested by footage of rushing water projected onto the backdrop. This is billed as Opera North’s first...

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Theodora, Royal Opera review - God, love, sex, death - and terrorism

Some of Handel's late London oratorios, like the indestructible Semele, work well as fully staged operas. Others, usually the ones which swap mythology for the sacred, need dramatic help. Theodora is one of them, though Peter Sellars' now-legendary...

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Classical CDs: Two clarinets and stereo snare drums

 Handel: Six Concerti Grossi Van Diemen’s Band/Martin Gester (BIS)I wanted to hear this disc purely on the basis of the group’s name. My instincts didn’t let me down. Martin Gester and Van Diemen’s Band, (based, naturally, in Tasmania) give...

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