Friday 2 February 2024

From forgotten arias in a pasticcio based on Balzac's Sarrasine to a forgotten instrument: Göttingen International Handel Festival announces the 2024 programme under George Petrou

George Petrou (Photo: Alciro Theodoro Da Silva)
George Petrou (Photo: Alciro Theodoro Da Silva)
The Göttingen International Handel Festival dates right back to the 1920s and though styles have changed the festival has always been notable for new ideas and new thinking about 18th century music. This year's festival under artistic director George Petrou has just been announced. Running from 9 to 20 May 2024 under the title Kaleidescope, the festival features not only music by Handel and his contemporaries, but modern reflections too, as Petrou wants the programme to bridge the gap between the 18th and 21st centuries, revealing the gap between Handel's music and the pressing issues of our time.

The opera staging this year focuses not on one of Handel's operas but on arias discarded by the composer, usually for dramaturgical reasons. George Petrou has fashioned a pasticcio using these arias with a plot based on Balzac's novella, Sarrasine about the sculptor Sarrasine's love for a singer, Zambinella, regarding her as his ideal woman but who proves to be a castrato performing female roles. Counter-tenor/sopranist Samuel Marino as Zambinella. The production is directed by Laurence Dale and George Petrou conducts.

Before the festival proper there is a pre-opening tempter, former festival artistic director Nicholas McGegan conducts the NDR Radiophilharmonie in Handel's early oratorio Deborah. Then the festival proper opens with Handel's Italian oratorio, Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno with Petrou conducting the festival orchestra and counter-tenor Xavier Sabata as Disinganno, whilst later comes Israel in Egypt.

Göttingen International Handel Festival
Modern reflections include Handel on the saxophone with Lutz Koppetsch, Michel Godara playing that rare instrument, the serpent, jazz singer Efrat Afony, alongside performances from more well-known names including Andrew Foster-Williams, Emoke Barath, Ruby Hughes and Juan Sancho. And of course, there is the festival's Handel competition too.

Full details from the festival website.

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