Joseph and his Brethren: George Frideric Handel (1743)

Malm: Joseph and his Brothers

★★★★

(London Handel Orchestra and Singers at St George’s Hanover Square, 20 April 2017)

Andrew Lloyd Webber wasn’t the first to realise that a good musical could be made from the story of Joseph in Egypt. 224 years before Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat was premiered, Handel chose the same subject for the second of two oratorios performed in his 1743 season (the first, a month before Joseph, was Semele). With a libretto by the radical clergyman James Miller, adapted in part from an earlier work by Apostolo Zeno, Handel’s oratorio throws us straight into the action, midway through the story. We first meet Joseph in prison in Egypt, and the tale follows his rise to power, his love for the beautiful Asenath, and his eventual reconciliation with his brothers. This was my final outing for this year’s Handel Festival and it proved a great conclusion, overseen by the ever-admirable Laurence Cummings with the London Handel Orchestra and Singers.

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The Creation: Joseph Haydn (1798)

CreationHaydn

★★★

(Bath Assembly Rooms, 31 October 2015)

Haydn has rather slipped under my radar so far, partly because his few operas don’t form part of the standard repertoire, and partly because a friend of mine has been a little dismissive of him so I didn’t actively seek him out. But on the basis of The Creation, performed on Saturday at the Assembly Rooms in Bath by the Bath Choral Society and the Bristol Ensemble, I’m going to have to revise that opinion.

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