Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Some Thoughts on my 6 August Handel Concert

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I’ve always been a fan of Handel’s music, especially his lovely operas, oratorios and the overtures that came with them. He has a way of getting to a point in the simplest ways. Seldom do you find empty melodies or virtuosic writing for its own sake, but always used to underscore an urgency in the lyrics and heighten an emotional point. Generally more accessible than Bach but displaying more depth than Vivaldi, his vocal output has a place for my every musical need, whether it’s a desire for music drama, uninhibited virtuosity or simply a nice tune to sing along to.

So it’s a pity that apart from Messiah, so many of his wonderful operas and oratorios remain unperformed in these parts, with a few exceptions of course (such as an Acis and Galetea which was staged a few times including a production by students of Thomas Mannhart and Jeong Ae-Ree). This animosity is strange in my opinion, as the resources required to stage even a classic piece like Giulio Cesare is hardly a demanding work to stage: eight singers including six female parts (we all know that female singers are easier to find) singing material that is reasonably difficult but not dangerously so (and much of it customisable anyhow). Throw in an epic storyline and the usual TV drama serial-style romantic triangles, you’ve got a production that’s low-cost, highly recognisable and entertaining. His oratorios, while requiring larger choral forces, would be a great fit for church organizations looking to expand their repertoire beyond the usual masses, requiems, and Messiahs; plus they are in English and therefore easier to pick-up.

Anyway, the beauty of Handel is that with the recitative and aria format, his operatic excerpts are just as enjoyable in or out of its broader context. Voice teachers often task students with his arias as they are a great starting point for the larger vocal music literature. So while we are awaiting our first performances of Cesare, Semele, Saul, Rodelinda, Theodora or Rinaldo (just some of my favourite Handel opuses), there’s no shortage of fabulous arias and duets on display at recitals, including this coming one taking place this coming Monday 6 August 2012. Hope to see you there!

Living with George F. Handel is on 6 August 2012, starring the Basso Canaries Steven Ang and Andrew Xiao, soprano Elaine Su Yiwen and pianist Beatrice Lin. Tickets are available at The Arts House box office. Email themadscene@gmail.com for inquiries.

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