EDINBURGH FESTIVAL '99': A modern biblical epic
CLASSICAL Saul Usher Hall
Tuesday 17 August 1999
Authenticity was severely limited, for Mackerras had to cope with the 150-strong Festival Chorus and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, who, with all their dapper stylishness, play on modern instruments. The stage set- up prepared us for one of those old, deadly, reverential Handel oratorios of the past, all sanctimonious rectitude and wobbly soloists. But it's now fashionable and probably a good deal more "authentic" to serve up Handel fresh, snappy, ironic and sexy.
Mackerras did not quite do this. His soloists were not exactly the stuff that irony and sex are made of. The only one who was - Joan Rodgers as Merab - seemed a bit out of place. Her smooth, sensuous tone lacked the brilliance for this spiteful part; the coloratura was slithery, and the air "Capricious man", with its viperish staccato, was soft-edged.
By some paradox of cross-dressing, the sexiest of the lot was David Daniels as David. This amazing artist looks like a grocer's assistant but sings in a high, expressive alto, almost a soprano, that is enormously flexible; he can do the spikiest coloratura, but he can also project a warm, sweet serenity, which can became almost childlike. The sentiment was overwhelming; a woman, more worried about good taste, could not have done it.
Lisa Milne, as Michal, is a real Handel singer. She could be fluid and honeyed, she could flash and sparkle, she had smashing roulades, and her mezza voce in "From this unhappy day" gave a vivid impression of horror. The other big celebrities - Ian Bostridge as a well-bred Schubertian Jonathan and Bryn Terfel as a hollering Verdian Saul - gave less pleasure. Mackerras kept things spinning along, but the modern violins sounded too velvety and David Nicholson's flute (in "Fell rage and black despair") was obviously equipped with the Boehm system.
The chorus gave a big, generalised performance, purring and roaring and barking, but there were too many of them to sound intimate. Nevertheless, Saul was a wonderful choice for this ritual sell-out; a copper-bottomed masterpiece that is performed, alas, too seldom.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered...
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 35,000 walrus gather ashore on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'
'Offensive' Banksy immigration mural in Clacton is scrubbed from wall by council
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Former Tory donor Arron Banks ups his Ukip donation to £1million following William Hague 'nobody' comment
- < Previous
- Next >