Glyndebourne: Saul

Handel: Saul
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Laurence Cummings
Glyndebourne Festival Opera. 22 July 2018

Glyndebourne’s new production of Handel’s Saul was one of the highlights of the 2015 season, gaining rave reviews from, amongst others, me – see here, which also gives more background to the oratorio and the production. Glyndebourne has a long tradition of staging Handel oratorios, and I have no problem at all with that, subject to my normal reservations about what some some opera directors get up to with their productions. This was not entirely devoid of some concern on those grounds, but the sheer spectacle of Barrie Kosky’s direction and the musical integrity of Ivor Bolton’s direction allayed most of my concerns. The same applies to this revival, at least musically, on this occasion conducted by the equally distinguished Laurence Cummings, directing the same Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Glyndebourne’s resident period instrument orchestra.

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Handel: Trio Sonatas

Handel: Trio Sonatas
The Brook Street Band
Avie AV2357. 76’10

Sinfonia in B flat HWV 339; Trio Sonatas in F HWV 392, B flat HWV 50a ‘Esther’, G minor HWV 393; in E HWV 394; C minor HWV 386a; C HWV 403 ‘Saul’.

Trio Sonatas for Two Violins and Basso ContinuoThe Brook Street Band, named after the London street where Handel lived for the last 36 years of his life, celebrate their 20th anniversary this year. As well as his well known Opus 2 and 5 sets of Trio Sonatas, Handel left a number of isolated examples of the genre, three of them normally referred to as the ‘Dresden’ sonatas where the manuscript is housed. To these three (HWV 392-4), are added two other proper trio sonatas (386a and 403) and two other pieces arranged by the Brook Street Band in a trio sonata format, the early Sinfonia and an early version of the overture to Esther, both of which helpfully lack an viola part. Many of the movements are examples of Handel’s re-use of material, and there are a number of familiar melodies that crop up with an otherwise lesser known group of pieces. Notable amongst Continue reading

Glyndebourne’s Saul

Glyndebourne’s Saul
Glyndebourne Festival Opera.  6 August 2015

I don’t normally read other reviews until I have seen for myself, but I was aware that Glyndebourne’s new production of Handel’s Saul had gone down well. And well it should. It is one of the most successful productions that I have seen. Directed by Barrie Kosky, with designs by Katrin Lea Tag and lighting by Joachim Klein, the sumptuous settings and costumes would inevitably tick most opera-goers’ boxes. Of course, Saul isn’t an opera, but one of his finest oratorios, written in 1739 and the first of his collaborations with Charles Jennens. There is now a long tradition of staging oratorios, not least at Glyndebourne, dating back to 1996 and Peter Sellars’ Theodora. And with its dramatic story of family intrigue, love and hate, a youthful hero and a king loosing his mind, it certainly has all the dramatic possibilities of opera seria.

Saul, Glyndebourne Festival 2015. Christopher Purves (Saul). Photographer Bill Cooper. Continue reading