Wednesday 11 April 2007

Too much Handel

A recent article in The Guardian has postulated that we are getting too much Handel at the moment. There have been productions of Handel operas at Covent Garden and ENO besides concert performances at the Barbican. But ENO has only 3 Handel operas and 1 oratorio in its repertoire and rarely gives us more than 1 per year and sometimes less. Covent Garden's production of Orlando is their first viable Handel staging in living memory.

Glyndebourne also have 3 stagings which come out periodically. The thing that all these operas have in common is that they all come from the magical 12 Handel operas that everyone does. It is left to people like the London Handel Festival, who staged Poro, to explore the remaining 24 Handel operas.

The concert performances of Handel operas at the Barbican (of which there are a few this year) also tend to explore the more well known operas. If you glance at the Web-Site for the Theatre du Champs Elysee you will see that they have quite a number of Handel operas in concert, all well known ones. Alan Curtiss and his group Il Complesso Barocco have been exploring lesser known operas (Faramondo and Sosarme/Fernando have both been issued on disc) but when the group came to the Barbican they brought Rodelinda.

So the issue is not that there is too much Handel but that there are too many performances of the same operas. This reluctance to explore means that we don't hear anything of his contemporaries; how nice it would have been to have heard a concert performance of Hasse's Cleofide to compliment Handel's Poro, after all they both use the same libretto.

As regards the French baroque and its complete absence from the opera house in the UK, this can be partly attributed to the lack of desire to explore they by-ways. But might also be attributable to a nervousness about how to treat the extensive dance episodes in the operas. Too often, I've found that UK productions react to significant dance episodes with simple embarassment.

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