Founded in 2002, Pinchgut Opera has presented 19 rarely performed works with such distinction that its audience has grown along with an appreciation of operas of the 17th and 18th centuries. Next year will see two such operas: Athalia by Handel (in June) and Artaserse by Johan Hasse (from November 29).
Handel premiered Athalia in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford in 1733. It was an ‘immense success’ displaying outstanding artistic consistency with innovative integration of the soloists with the chorus. Athalia, the title character, is an unappealing figure; the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, now ruling Judah on her own, determined to stamp out the Jewish line of kings including the rightful heir, a boy Joas. She does not succeed. To be conducted by Erin Helyard with direction by Lindy Hume, Athalia presents great opportunities for Cantillation, the chorus. Jonathan Keats has described it as having a ‘radiantly dramatic quality in pacing and layout of numbers’. This is major Handel.
Johann Hasse (1699-1783) may not be well known now, but he was an immensely popular composer in his time. A successful singer and composer, his music is not only beautiful but truly thrilling. Pinchgut is giving this production of Artaserse a splendid cast led by Vivica Genaux, Alaskan-born mezzo returning after her triumph in Brisbane Baroque 2016, and Australian counter-tenor David Hansen in a role made famous by Farinelli. A brilliant showcase!
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