Sunday 1 December 2019

Handel and the Hanoverians: 2020 London Handel Festival

George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner
George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner
The London Handel Festival (musical director Laurence Cummings, associate director Adrian Butterfield, festival director Samir Savant), now in its 42nd year, returns in 2020 with five weeks of concerts (5 March - 10 April 2020) under the theme of Handel and the Hanoverians. This year there is a chance to see a staging of a charming and under appreciated oratorio, an occasional piece written for a Royal wedding, his final oratorio, and a tantalising unfinished operatic fragment, not to mention the original version of Rule Britannia.

The headline event is a new production of Handel's oratorio Susanna which is a co-production between the festival and the Royal Opera at the Linbury Theatre, both director Isabelle Kettle and conductor Patrick Milne are Jette Parker Young Artists as are a number of the cast including Masabene Cecilia Rangwanasha in the title role and Patrick Terry (2nd Prize winner of the 2019 Handel Singing Competition). Based on the story of Susanna in chapter 13 of the Book of Daniel, Handel's oratorio was presented at Covent Garden in February 1749, and the work includes elements of pastoral comedy alongside the more serious vein.

Other dramatic works in the festival include Parnasso in Festa, a serenata written for the celebrations of the wedding of Anne, the Princess Royal, to Prince William IV of Orange in 1734. An occasional work in which Handel re-used a lot of material from his oratorio Athalia. Adrian Butterfield conducts a cast including Katie Bray as Apollo. Handel's final oratorio, The Triumph of Time and Truth, was created whilst he was struggling with failing eyesight and is a re-working of his Italian oratorio Il trionfo del Tempo e disinganno. The performance is conducted by Laurence Cummings and features three past winners of the Handel Singing Competition.

Handel's Italian opera is represented at this year's festival by Serse, from Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company with a cast including Anna Stephany, Mary Bevan and Anna Devin, and Fernando, from Leo Duarte and Opera Settecento. Handel started Fernando, re di Castiglia in 1731, but the plot with its father and son conflict in Portugal was a bit too close to the problems that the House of Hanover were having, so the opera was re-worked and completed as Sosarme, Re di Media. Fernando is thus incomplete, and Opera Settecento will be performing it in a new edition, and with a cast featuring a number of former Handel Singing Competition winners. There will also be a chance to explore Handel's Heroines in a concert from sopranos Mary Bevan and Jennifer France with Laurence Cummings conducting the Academy of Ancient Music.

The Handel Singing Competition takes place during the festival, with the final on 26 March 2020, and there is a chance to hear alumni of the competition, Erica Eloff, Caitlin Hulcup, Alexander Sprague and Lisandro Abadie, in concert with Laurence Cummmings and the London Handel Orchestra.

The festival theme pops up in a further pair of concerts with the Brook Street Band. They will be performing chamber music written by composers supported by the Royal family, and a pairing of Handel's Ode to St Cecilia and Arne's Alfred, with John Andrews conducting. Alfred was premiered at Cliveden, then the home of the Prince of Wales, and features that well known piece 'Rule Britannia'.

As something of a change from the festival's regular programming, Festival Voices return with Handel Remixed: Volume II at the CLF Art Cafe in Peckham, featuring well-known arias and choruses remixed live with electronic music.

Full details from the London Handel Festival website.

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