Wow. What an opera. I say opera, but in fact La Resurrezione is an oratorio by Handel and is part of the 31st London Handel Festival. I've been assiduously attending operas/oratorios for 15 years and this is the first I've heard of this work, which is being performed at various places at least three times in 2008-9. Maybe that's because it was written in 1708, but I wish that I'd heard it earlier. Why wait for its tricentenary to perform this masterpiece? That's the marvellous thing about opera. You think you know the great works and along comes a lesser known one that knocks your socks off. Other examples are Mozart's Mitridate, his best opera in my opinion, and Landi's Il Sant' Alessio, performed at the Barbican last year by an all-male cast.
The orchestra was the Royal College of Music Baroque and it was sung by soloists from the Royal College of Music, ably led by the director Adrian Butterfield. The future of Handel performances looks to be in the safe hands of these students as the orchestra handled the colourful instrumentation and obbligatos with panache. The singing was also uniformly impressive. The venue was St George's, a beautiful and appropriate location for the work. Handel lived in the parish and worshipped in the church from 1725 until his death in 1759. The RCM also perform operas on their home turf at the Britten Theatre, with creative sets and fine acting.
La Resurrezione has roles for soprano (Angel and Mary Magdalene), mezzo (Mary Cleophas), tenor (St John) and bass (Lucifer). The Angel appropriately opens proceedings from the pulpit of the church. Unusually for Handel, the best arias are reserved for the tenor. One of them, "Caro Figlio", three years later morphs into the well-known "Caro Sposa" in Rinaldo written in 1711. There is also a lovely duet between the two Marys, and Lucifer has a suitably deep resonant voice. The work is characterised by one beautiful aria after another with sumptuous accompaniment; it would be a fine alternative to the ubiquitous Messiah.
The story is that of the Resurrection so there are few twists and turns that characterise Handel's operas. Indeed, a bonus of La Resurrezione is that it is performed in only two-and-a-half hours; there are no spurious characters that sometimes turn a Handel evening into a marathon, beautiful though the music might be. The action takes place during the second night after the Crucifixion and the following morning. It describes Christ's descent to Hell, his victory over evil and his Resurrection. I recommend you buy the CD, marvel at the wonder of this work and book a ticket for Le Concert d'Astrée next March at the Barbican.
David Hasell, supply chain innovation analyst, Thames Ditton
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