Tuesday 30 January 2018

Handel in London - exploring the pleasures of the London Handel Festival

Nick Pritchard and Lucy Page in Handel's Acis and Galatea (Photo Robert Workman)
Nick Pritchard and Lucy Page in Handel's Acis and Galatea (Photo Robert Workman)
This year's London Handel Festival, which runs from 17 March to 16 April 2018 has a slightly different feel than usual, a welcome change to the selection and the way works are presented. There are four Handel operas being presented this year, a chance to hear Acis and Galatea, Teseo, Amadigi di Gaula and Giulio Cesare. The range of festival venues continues to expand, with Wigmore Hall, Foundling Museum, Handel & Hendrix in London, the Charterhouse, St Lawrence's Church, Little Stanmore, St John's Smith Square, and Fitzrovia Hospital Chapel as well as the festival's regular home of St George's Hanover Square.

The Handel Singing Competition returns for its 16th year, with a showcase concert for 2017 winners Marcjanna Myrlak and Jungkwon Jang,in addition to the competition itself. And Mr Handel's Scholars will again present alumni of the Handel Singing Competition, including 2017 finalists Maria and Nathan Vale, joining Anna Devin and Derek Welton,and the London Handel Orchestra.

Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
The festival's theme this year is Handel and London, so we have Bridget Cunningham directing My Handel's Pleasures, a concert exploring the music of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. And Ruby Hughes (winner of the 2009 competition) takes on the mantle of Giulia Frasi, one of Handel's favourite sopranos and his last prima donna. There is a pair of concerts in Handel's own house, Handel at Home presents harpsichordists Julian Perkins and Gilbert Rowland playing in Handel's drawing room.

Congreve's libretto for The Judgement of Paris is best known for its use in the 1701 competition to pit London's finest composers against each other, but it was also set in 1742 by Thomas Arne and it is this version that John Andrews directs the Brook Street Band in, with Ed Lyon, Soraya MAfi, and Anthony Gregory. And there will be excerpts from Handel's Semele too (another Congreve libretto).

The opera performances are all highly tempting. Acis and Galatea is being presented in a pair of staged performances celebrating the 300th anniversary of the first performance, with Lucy Page, Nick Pritchard, Edward Grint and Jorge Navarro Colorado. Lawrence Cummings conductis and Martin Parr directs.  Leo Duarte conducts Opera Settecento in a concert performances of Amadigi di Gaula with Michal Czerniawski, Erica Eloff, Ilona Revolskaya and Maria Ostroukhova. Christian Curnyn directs his Early Opera Company in a concert performance of Giulio Cesare with Tim Mead and Anna Devin as Cesare and Cleopatra, plus Rachel Kelly, Hilary Summers, and Rupert Enticknap. David Bates directs his ensemble, La Nuova Musica in a pair of performances Handel's Teseo with two casts drawn from the Royal Academy Opera programme at the Royal Academy of Music.

Oratorio is not missing, of course, the festival concludes with the Occasional Oratorio, with Lawrence Cummings conducting and soloists Fflur Wyn, Galina Verina, Alexander Sprague and Lisandro Abadie. Adrian Butterfield is continuing his cycle of Handel's Chandos Anthems, performing nos. 1, 2 and 4,  and there is also a chance to hear Handel's Foundling Hospital Anthem in the Foundling Hospital Museum

There is a programme of Musical Walks include Bloomsbury philanthropists, inventors and eccentrics, Clerkenwell’s coffee houses, coal and the Clerk’s well, 1,000 years of destruction, conservation and restoration in 1 hour (!) and Churches, squares, artists, doctors and musicians in Georgian society. Plus there are talks by experts on Handel's investments at the Bank of England Museum and Handel's health at the Royal Society of Medicine.

Full details from the London Handel Festival website.

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