All the Angels: Handel and the First Messiah: Nick Drake

All the Angels: Handel and the First Messiah

★★★

(Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, directed by Jonathan Munby, 3 July 2015)

The Globe’s increasing involvement with early music has been one of the unforeseen consequences (for me) of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. As I’ve said before, its intimate atmosphere and warm acoustics have encouraged some truly exciting developments over in Southwark. There’s the exciting collaboration with the Royal Opera House to produce lesser-known early Baroque operas; there are concerts; and, least foreseen of all, new plays which explore the history of music. Last season we had Farinelli and the King, which will transfer to the West End this autumn and which has done so much to introduce a general audience to countertenors (and hopefully, for Iestyn Davies’s sake, to the difference between a countertenor and a castrato).

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Antigono: Christoph Willibald Gluck (1756)

Metastasio: Antigono

★★★

(Ensemble Serse, Grosvenor Chapel, London, 25 April 2015)

I know what you’re thinking. Serse again?! But no: fear not. No Xerxes today: instead I’m rather belatedly posting about Ensemble Serse, a London-based company of young musicians and singers who specialise in ambitious resurrections of Baroque opera. Their mission statement is to offer a musical experience that’s as close as possible to what an 18th-century audience might have heard. That means no cuts, all possible cadenzas and a take-no-prisoners attitude to singing.

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