Monday 20 January 2014

London Handel Festival 2014

Luke D Williams in Imenio at the 2013 London Handel Festival
Luke D Williams in Imenio at the 2013 London Handel Festival
Public on-line booking has just opened for this year's London Handel Festival, which runs from 3 March to 18 April 2014. The festival includes some interesting large-scale and smaller scale events ranging from a staging of Handel's opera Arianna in Creta to lunch time recitals and of course the Handel Singing Competition.

Handel's Arianna in Creta will be the 22nd fully staged Handel opera which the festival has produced in collaboration with the Royal College of Music International Opera School. Conducted by the artistic director of the festival Laurence Cummings, there are four performances which are double cast with Filipa van Eck and Soraya Mafi sharing the role of Arianna and Tai Oney and Angela Simkin sharing the role of Teseo. The opera tells the familiar story of Theseus and the minotaur, but with the usual opera seria complications. It will be interesting to see how the production, directed by the actress Selina Cadell, works. Handel wrote the opera in 1734 with a cast including Anna Strada del Po (who created the title role in Alcina and Ginevra in Ariodante) and Carestini (who created Ariodante) (3 - 6 March)

In a nice piece of programming there is also the opportunity to see Ariodante (written the year after Arianna in Creta) during the festival as the Royal Academy of Music is staging it directed by Paul Curran and conducted by Jane Glover. (20-25 March).

Two of Handel's major oratorios get an outing Israel in Egypt is performed by Pegasus and the London Handel Orchestra, conducted by Adrian Butterfield with soloists Natalie Montakhab, Alexandra Gibson, Greg Tassell and Ben Bevan (2 April). And his second oratorio, Deborah, gets a rare outing performed by the London Handel Singers and Orchestra conducted by Laurence Cummings with soloists Lynda Lee, Katherine Watson, Robin Blaze, Owen Willetts and Njal Sparbo (9 April).

An annual event during the festival is the Good Friday performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion in the context of Vespers. This year the choir of St George's Hanover Square and the London Handel Orchestra are conducted by Laurence Cummings with Nathan Vale as the Evangelist, George Humphreys as Christus, and Erica Eloff and Louise Innes.

Rupert Charlesworth - winner of the 2013 London Handel Singing Competition - Photo by Paul Kolien
Rupert Charlesworth
Photo by Paul Kolien
Tenor Rupert Charlesworth, winner of the 2013 London Handel Singing Competition, is joined by Laurence Cummings at the harpsichord for a programme of arias from Samson, Alcina, Theodora, Acis and Galatea and Rodelinda plus Handel's harpsichord suites. Counter-tenor Tim Mead is joining David Bates and La Nuova Musica for a programme of Handel and his contemporaries including arias from Judas Maccabeus, Messiah, Theodora, Belshazzar and Ode to the Birthday of Queen Anne (12 March).

Southbank Sinfonia Baroque are directed by Adrian Butterfield for a programme of Handel's contemporaries including this year's birthday boy, CPE Bach, and Lotti's Missa Sapientiae with Vox Musica (28 March). La Serenissima, conductor Adrian Chandler, look at Johann Georg Pisendel (who directed the orchestra at the Royal Court in Dresden) and the composers such as Vivaldi that he interacted with (31 March)

The Handel Singing Competition runs through the festival with the final on 18 March.  One of the nice things about the festival is the way that the finalists in the competition are provided with opportunities in the next festival. The 2013 Handel Singing Competition Finalists (Nathalie Montakhab, Stephen Chambers, Rupert Charlesworth, Heimi Lee and Frederick Long)  all come together for a programme of Handel cantatas, Aminta e Fillide, Look down, harmonious saint and Apollo and Dafne conducted by Laurence Cummings (4 April) and the singers crop up in quite a few other concerts as well.

There are lunchtime recitals from Rupert Charleworth, Duo Labyrinth, Heimi Lee and Baroque Ensemble Lux, Natalie Montakhab, Stephen Chambers, Frederick Long, Jane Gordon and Julian Perkins. There are also lunchtime organ recitals in the Grosvenor Chapel and St George's Church, Hanover Square, which gives us plenty of chances to hear the new Richards Fowkes organ at St. George's Church.

There is also a chance to get involved, with Sing Foundling Hospital Anthems directed by Laurence Cummings, with the Little Baroque Company and soloists from the Royal College of Music.

Most of the events take place at St. George's Church, Hanover Square. Further information from the London Handel Festival website.

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