It’s easy to think that we know the story of Jason – it’s a standard in every child’s book of Greek Myths, the hero who overcomes impossible challenges to claim the prize of the Golden Fleece, helped by the lovely witch-princess Medea who has conveniently fallen in love with him. There’s not much of this in Cavalli’s opera though – pretty much the only recognisable incident from the children’s books, Jason’s defeat of the monster that guards the fleece, is reduced to a minute or so of splendidly percussive strings (Combattimento), the quest a mere distraction to the far more …
Agrippina is one of those big characters in Roman history – sister of Caligula, niece and wife of Claudius and mother of Nero, she seems to have spent her life embroiled in scandal and notoriety. Given this subject matter though, and the baroque tendency to delight in excesses of all kinds, Handel’s Agrippina is remarkably restrained. Although the whole opera is about struggles for sex and power, all the shenanigans of the plot are undertaken with naive incompetence, and at the end everyone seems to get what they want without anyone even dying. There was no wrecks and no-body drownded.
Baroque opera has been a surprisingly recent discovery for me. It’s so obviously the sort of thing I would like — there’s an intoxicating mix of passion, bad behaviour, sex, tragedy, strong female characters, lots of semiquavers, and, sometimes, recorders — that I wonder what took me so long. There’s more of it about these days, which helps, but what’s really made a difference for me is the internet; I can listen to performances on Radio 3, watch streamed productions and explore things on Spotify. I’m getting quite a taste for it, but I’ve never seen any live performances,
It’s been hard to miss the presence of the Lindisfarne Gospels in Durham this summer, and naturally there have been plenty of events celebrating the book’s temporary return home.The beautiful gospels book was created to honour St Cuthbert, and the exhibition in Durham has placed the gospels in the context of Cuthbert’s life and legacy, surrounded by other treasures relating to our greatest northern saint, so it seems only right that he should also be the focus of the concert that marks the end of the exhibition.
I always enjoy the new-year feeling of September, when everything gets going again, and since I started concert reviewing, I’ve had the the extra excitement of thumbing through Sage Gateshead’s classical season brochure, filling up my diary and getting exciting about the coming year’s musical treats.
I’m a little disappointed that this year I won’t be able to make it to Miranda Wright’s Samling Academy Opera production – they’re doing Britten’s comic opera Albert Herring and having seen Miranda’s previous two productions at the Sage (Marriage of Figaro and Dido and Aeneas), I can guarantee it will be a really entertaining evening.