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.
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
arts + entsThere were towering ideas, some scintillating performances and revelatory grooves... our writers pick out their personal highlights
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
peoplePrepare to be entranced by worms as the molecular biologist gets ready to give the Royal Institution science lectures
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
voicesPeople moan that Christmas is too commercial, the spirit lost. But it is a time to over-indulge, and always has been, says DJ Taylor
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the artisan workshops of this Renaissance city?
food + drinkA trifle without custard? Surely not! Nonsense – and here’s three to finish your festive meal that prove it
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Arts & Ents blogs
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
Scientists ‘incredibly concerned’ for fate of banana as plagues and fungus infections spread across world’s supplies
- 1 Tim Sherwood challenges Daniel Levy to set out vision for Tottenham Hotspur’s future
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 5 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- < Previous
- Next >