Handel's oratorios are eminently suitable for adaptation as operas. I have seen convincing operatic versions of Jephtha, Saul and Theodora. The one exception is probably The Messiah because Charles Jennens's libretto is simply a reflection on the life of Christ with no narrative structure. This has not stopped opera directors from trying, with generally indifferent results. In this 2009 production from Vienna, director Claus Guth sets the piece in an anonymous-looking hotel. It starts with a funeral and then there is a flashback to the protagonist's apparent suicide. We don't really find out anything about this man, why he kills himself and why so many people are mourning him. The only thing that I am completely clear about is that the storyline has absolutely no connection to the libretto of The Messiah.
On the other hand, musically, this is a triumph. There are five brilliant soloists. I will not name them all but, perhaps countertenor Bejun Mehta is worthy of particular mention. Even though the storyline is spurious it does add a dimension to see the soloists emoting in a dramatic situation. This is even more true of the chorus where every singer projects his or her own individual character. The performance has an intimate feel, particularly the Hallelujah Chorus, with much smaller resources that we are used to hearing at our local town halls at Easter time.
I must admit too that I found the subtitles added to the experience, even though the performance is in English. Jennens's libretto is so opaque that it is possible to listen to it for a lifetime without working out what the performers are singing about.
The only downside was two non-singing characters. The protagonist is a very twitchy dancer who made me feel twitchy too whenever he appeared. There is also a sign language performer who is extremely irritating and unnecessary. Apart from that I really enjoyed this production.
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?