Early Opera Company, The Messiah
Monday 20 December 2010
Messiahs come in all shapes and sizes, and did so from the start. The oratorio’s first performers, in Dublin in 1742, doubled as soloists and chorus.
Handel then adapted it in many different ways to suit the circumstances of its revivals, but he settled, when he could, for a chorus of 32. These days it’s sometimes done with a cast of thousands, but there are brave spirits at the opposite end of the spectrum, the newest of whom is Christian Curnyn with his pocket-sized Early Opera Company.
Curnyn’s approach to Handel – beautifully exemplified by the recording he and the EOC released this week of Handel’s early opera ‘Il trionfo del tempo e del Disinganno’, on the Wigmore Live label – is to follow what he regards as the ‘inner pulse’ in all Handel’s music. This is the heartbeat rate, reflecting the fact that, like all Baroque music, Handel’s is based in dance. And if Curnyn’s forces were small, they proved perfectly suited to this acoustic. The four soloists were balanced by a chorus of eight and a 13-piece period-instrument ensemble with Curnyn directing from harpsichord and organ, but the tiny stage still seemed full to bursting.
There was no weak link in the soloists’ line-up, with tenor Nicholas Watts singing the opening aria, ‘Comfort ye’, with searing intensity, and soprano Sarah Tynan standing in for an indisposed Sarah Fox. But in counter-tenor Iestyn Davies and baritone Derek Welton the EOC had trump cards. When Welton thundered ‘I will shake the heavens and the earth’, he did pretty much that: every aria he sang had an easy, unforced majesty.
Davies scooped the pool in this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society awards after a string of brilliant operatic performances, and his voice is now acquiring a clarion quality. Looking like a thoroughly dissolute fallen angel, he sang here like one from heaven; his delivery of ‘He shall feed his flock’, over shuddering strings, was one of the evening’s many magical moments. But others came thick and fast, notably the short a cappella interlude before ‘Since by man came death’, and above all the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus, which, egged on by thunder from the timpani, brought the entire hall to its feet. A fabulous evening.
Arts & Ents blogs
St Patrick’s Day 2014: The worst Irish accents in film history
Under The Skin, film review: Scarlett Johansson is full-blooded as femme fatale alien
Best films on Netflix: 32 movies that will put an end to your endless scrolling
Lord of the Flies is still a blueprint for savagery
Game of Thrones star Sibel Kekilli says she wants to see more male nudity in the show
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Ukip and Nigel Farage on course for remarkable victory in European elections
Tony Benn was entirely ineffectual - and usually wrong
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
- 1 Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
- 2 Gender-specific books demean all our children. So the Independent on Sunday will no longer review anything marketed to exclude either sex
- 3 Malaysia flight MH370: Pitbull song lyrics bear uncanny resemblance to missing plane mystery, according to YouTubers
- 4 Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Q&A by Simon Calder: How far could it have travelled? Who was responsible and what would their plans be? And how can a plane just vanish?
- 5 'Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 plane found in Bermuda Triangle!' Viral Facebook links are profiting hackers