Tuesday 10 January 2017

Looking ahead: the London Handel Festival 2017

Handel - Ariodante - London Handel Festival 2016 - photo Chris Christodoulou
Handel - Ariodante - London Handel Festival 2016 - photo Chris Christodoulou
The London Handel Festival will be upon us again in March and April 2017, when we can look forward to an interesting selection of music by Handel and his contemporaries. It is heartening that this year the festival seems to be continuing to extend the venues it uses, rather than rely on the historic, but limited, St George's Church, Hanover Square, and this year there are concerts at the Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, Royal Academy of Music, the Foundling Hospital as well as St Lawrence's Church, Little Stanmore. This year's festival opera is the rather undeservedly neglected Faramondo whilst for the oratorio the festival turns its attention to the also rather neglected Joseph and his Brethren

The festival opens with a come-and-sing event at the Grosvenor Chapel on 18 March 2017 when you can come and sing some of Handel's Coronation Anthems.

The Handel Singing Competition is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. So in addition to the competition itself, there is a gala concert with four past finalists of the competition Ruby Hughes, Iestyn Davies, Rupert Charlesworth and Josep-Ramon Olive, plus Lawrence Cummings conducting the London Handel Orchestra at Cadogan Hall. The competition proper takes place at the Grosvenor Chapel and St George's Church, Hanover Square and the panel of adjudicators for the final will be chaired by Iestyn Davies. There is also an extra event, at the Foundling Hospital, Canzoni Italiane which will showcase the winners of the 2016 festival.

There are two operas this year. Opera Settecento return, conducted by Leo Duarte with a young cast performing Handel's pasticcio Ormisda. Premiered in 1730 it contains a fine selection of arias by Orlandini, Hasse, Vinci, Giacommelli, Sarri and Leo. And the festival production at the Britten Theatre is Handel's Faramondo, It is a late work, premiered in 1738 and there were only ever 8 performances in Handel's lifetime. The libretto is problematic in the extreme, but there is much good music. A lot of the best is written for the title role which was Handel's first part for Caffarelli, reckoned one of the finest (and most temperamental) singers of the age, though he never went down well in London. Lawrence Cummings will conduct, and William Relton directs, with singers from the Royal College of Music.

A fine array of concerts celebrate Handel and Telemann's friendship (with soprano Rowan Pierce and the London Handel Players), the Chandos Anthems at the church of St Lawrence, Little Stanmore, Handel's duets (with Louise Alder and Emilie Renard, with David Bates conducting La Nuovo Musica).

This year's oratorio is Joseph and his Brethren, which will be conducted by Lawrence Cummings with Christopher Ainslie, Elizabeth Watts, Anna Starushkevych, Edward Grint, and William Wallace (winner of the 2016 Handel Singing Competition). Not Handel's best oratorio, but there are still some fine scenes and I have happy memories the wonderful prison scene with Ian Partridge at a previous Handel Festival.

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