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Manuel Ribeiro
Pizzicato, October 2016

The brightest and most opulent scenes alternate with darker ones, creating suggestive contrasts. Musically this Saul from Glyndebourne is a sheer delight. © 2016 Pizzicato

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2016

Not content with the forty extant operas composed by Handel, Glyndebourne Opera have adapted the oratorio, Saul, with a fully staged performance from Barrie Kosky. It is a licence taken from the fact that by the 1740’s London audiences were moving away from Handel’s operatic output, and were now more inclined towards his oratorios. Ever commercial in his undertakings, he simply adapted the type of stories he would have used for opera, and ‘dressed’ them in the guise of oratorio. Changing Saul to an opera is not new, though previous presentations I have encountered have concentrated on updating the story to recent times and relating it to contemporary events. Now imagine, if you will, an outlandish costumed Commedia dell’arte troupe having arrived in London in the 18th century, bringing with them a play based on the dramatic biblical story of Saul and David. Then just to make sure their audience did not get bored, the company presents interludes of dance routines, including a high-kicking male chorus-line, the evening ending with a final line-up of the whole troupe to send their audience home in happy mood. That in a nutshell is Kosky’s contribution that seemed to delight the Glyndebourne audience, or was it the excellent singing they were so enthusiastically applauding? Certainly you could hardly imagine a finer account of David than the one we have from the countertenor, Iestyn Davies. It is a gorgeous voice, easily produced and perfect of intonation. He is visually the young person of this historic story, and is the foil to the neurotic Saul, here portrayed with chilling reality by Christopher Purves. In this staging, he is a man beset with a mental illness that created epileptic fits taking him progressively into madness. His two daughters have an ideal contrast or blend of voices, as the music dictates, with Lucy Crowe as Merab, and Sophie Bevan in the part of Michal. As their brother, Jonathan, Paul Appleby does not quite reveal a young man torn apart, while in his multiple roles, Benjamin Hulett is dressed to look rather foolish. Ivor Bolton conducts The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment which hardly sounds like a period ensemble. Filmed in August 2015, the Blu-ray colours are vivid, and the sound is atmospheric of the theatre. There is also a standard DVD on OA1216D. © 2016 David’s Review Corner

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