Festivals dedicated to the twin giants of the Baroque take place in June within commuting distance of each other in the German province of Saxony. Both the Bach Fest in Leipzig and the Handel Festspiele in Halle each run over ten days or so and with an overlapping weekend it is possible to get a taste of both in one trip.
I arrived in Halle just in time to sample the final day of the Handel Festspiele. The festival must be especially welcome this year following a dark period when it was cancelled due to catastrophic flooding. I hadn't expected to find myself on a bus chuntering through Saxon suburbs but the most compelling event of the day was a staging of a pasticcio at the delightful Goethe Theater in the spa town of Bad Lauchstadt. A wall plaque states that the theatre was where a young Richard Wagner began his conducting career with a Don Giovanni. There was time for an alfresco kaffee and kuchen before withdrawing to the charming vintage interior of the Summer theatre.
I learn that a pasticcio is not an icecream flavour, but a form of opera cobbled together from previously composed works, a sort of theatrical compilation of greatest hits. Handel had plenty to choose from by the time he compiledGiove in Argo, one of three notable works in this style. Programme notes tell us that ' while the pasticci are relatively unknown on modern stages, they were standard 18th century fare. This one is unusual in that it uses three deep male voices, and features a prominent chorus The work was first revived in a performance at Bayreuth in 2006.
Sung in Italian without surtitles, the work spanned three acts in as many hours.The variety of voices were uniformly strong, one as dazzling as the next. The two hearty bass voices gave the work a weighty resonance. The intimate venue allowed a great degree of nuance in dynamics. The contemporary staging was zany, seeming to take inspiration from a fusion of films, Airplane and KillBill, all singers seeming to throw themselves into the frenzied madcap nature of the proceedings. One had to feel sorry for the character who murdered in Act 1 is required to lie motionless on stage for the following hours.
Despite the undoubted strength of the soloists, the highpoint for me was the chorus who shone in Viver e non amar. Conductor, Werner Ehrhardt directed the Orchester l'arte del monde in a powerful and vivacious performance from the pit.
|Soloists Curtain Call|
Giove in Argo HWV A14
An opera by G. F. Handel
Music director: Werner Ehrhardt
Directed by: Kay Link
Set designer: Olga von Wahl
Soloists: Roberta Mameli (Iside), Krystian Adam (Arete), Natalia Rubiś (Calisto), Johan Rydh (Liacone), Barbara Emilia Schedel (Calisto), Thilo Dahlmann (Erasto)
L'arte del mondo orchestra & vocal ensemble