Thursday, 26 March 2009

Edinburgh Festival 2009

Edinburgh Festival has announced its programme for 2009 which, predictably, includes a decent amount of Handel. More eyebrow raising is the fact that the opening concert, conducted by William Christie, will feature the oratorio Judas Maccabeus, which was written by Handel as part of the tub-thumping surrounding the Duke of Cumberland's post-1745 campaigns.

A sign of the times is the fact that Rinaldo and Acis und Galatea are being giving in concert form rather than staged. Rinaldo is being performed by the Bach Collegium Japan under Masaaki Suziki with a cast including Robin Blaze. Acis is being done by Nicholas McGeegan and Göttingen forces and features Mendelssohn's version of the work, which McGeegan his forces have recorded. Also featured are concert performances of Verdi's Macbeth with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Wagner's Flying Dutchman from Hamburg with Franz Grundheber and Eva Johansson. Plus The Sixteen doing Purcell's The Fairy Queen.

Monteverdi's Return of Ulysses is being staged with the puppet company Handspring, directed by artist William Kentridge. A fascinating idea, but I can't help feeling they should have chosen a more intractable work, e.g. The Fairy Queen, which would have responded well to such a staging.

The only Full opera staging is Handel's Admeto, which will come hot foot from the productions premiere at Göttingen. Nicholas McGeegan conducts and director Dorris Dorie is setting the work in a Japanese samurai world, so that when Alceste returns from Hades she acquires a spirit-ghost played by a Butoh dancer. Interesting? Perhaps? Still Tim Mead is singing Admeto.

Also being staged is a programme of Bach cantatas from Stuttgart under the general title of Actus Tragicus. The production sets the music against the background of an ordinary rooming house with a cross section of everyday tasks. (Another hmmm for this one I'm afraid).

The Royal Ballet of Flanders is also doing The Return of Ulysses, but in this case the ballet has no relationship to Monteverdi, music is by Purcell along with songs from the 1940's and 50's.


There are some notable concerts. A programme of early evening Bach programmes at Greyfriars. And a programme of Gaelic Psalm singing with singers from Lewis, certainly a programme which would come very high on my list of desired options.

Philippe Herreweghe and his Collegium Vocale Ghent are doing Mendelssohn's Elias, but as there only seem to be 4 soloists they get a black mark. Jordi Savall and the Concert des Nations are doing a programme of Handel and Marin Marais, but the Handel's the Water and Fire music I'm afraid.
Sir Charles Mackerras is doing Haydn's Seven Last Words in the oratorio version, with a work by Giorgio Battistelli in the same programme.

The RSNO under Stephane Deneve give us Berlioz's Romeo et Juliette complete.

Chamber music and vocal recitals include Jordi Savall's Hesperion XXI, Christopher Maltman, Bejun Mehta in a wide ranging vocal recital, Macmillan's Seven Last Words and much much more.

In terms of large scale staged opera, the festival is not quite as impressive as it used to be in the 70's but in terms of sheer breadth and variety it seems to have recovered something of its old poise.

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