Giacomo Susani

Giacomo Susani
Giacomo Susani (Photo by Luciano Tomasin, 2015)

Saturday, January 03, 2015

George Frideric Handel: Messiah – Susan Gritton, Cornelia Horak, Bejun Mehta, Richard Croft, Florian Boesch – Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Ensemble Matheus, Jean-Christophe Spinosi – Claus Guth, Hannes Rossacher (HD 1080p)

On the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Handel's death, Vienna's theater an der Wien, famous for innovative and unconventional opera productions, realized a unique and truly extraordinary project: the staging of one of Handel's most popular oratorios. For this production, the theater signed up one of the most renowned stage directors of our time, Claus Guth. The result: "an emotionally and psychologically charged sequence of images", as the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote about Guth's portrayal of a family dynasty, complete with guilt, betrayal, suicide and reconciliation. Conductor Jean-Christophe Spinosi triumphs "with his phenomenal orchestra [ensemble Matheus] and the subtle Arnold Schoenberg Chor" (Süddeutsche Zeitung). Winner of the Diapason d'Or and the BBC Music Magazine award, the ensemble is internationally acclaimed for its interpretations of early music on authentic period instruments. Offering "the best of Handel vocal artistry" (Frankfurter Rundschau) are Cornelia Horak, Susan Gritton, Richard Croft and the sublime countertenor Bejun Mehta. Video director Hannes Rossacher, internationally known as one of the leading video directors for rock and pop events (Rolling Stones), has captured this unique performance of the oratorio on film.


With English subtitles

Σκηνική προσαρμογή του ορατορίου «Μεσσίας» του Γκέοργκ Φρήντριχ Χαίντελ, από τους Claus Guth, Konrad Kuhn και Christian Schmidt. Τη θεατρική σκηνοθεσία υπογράφει ένας από τους πιο φημισμένους και περιζήτητους θεατρικούς σκηνοθέτες της εποχής μας, ο Γερμανός Claus Guth. Η σκηνοθεσία του βίντεο είναι του διεθνώς αναγνωρισμένου και κορυφαίου σκηνοθέτη βίντεο, Hannes Rossacher.

Ερμηνεύουν οι Susan Gritton (υψίφωνος), Cornelia Horak (υψίφωνος), Martin Pöllmann (αγόρι σοπράνο), Bejun Mehta (άλτο), Richard Croft (τενόρος) και Florian Boesch (μπάσος). Χορεύει ο Αμερικανός χορευτής και χορογράφος Paul Lorenger. Συμμετέχει η περφόμερ στη νοηματική γλώσσα, Nadia Kichler. Τη διάσημη αυστριακή χορωδία Arnold Schoenberg και τη γαλλική μπαρόκ ορχήστρα, με αυθεντικά όργανα εποχής, Ensemble Matheus διευθύνει ο διακεκριμένος βιολονίστας και αρχιμουσικός Jean-Christophe Spinosi.

Η παράσταση δόθηκε το 2009 στη Βιένη, στο γνωστό για τις καινοτόμες και αντισυμβατικές παραγωγές του, Theater an der Wien, με την ευκαιρία της 250ής επετείου από το θάνατο του Χαίντελ.

Με αγγλικούς υπότιτλους

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Messiah, HWV 56 (1741)

Libretto: Charles Jennens

Staged version by Claus Guth, Konrad Kuhn and Christian Schmidt

Susan Gritton, soprano
Cornelia Horak, soprano
Bejun Mehta, alto
Richard Croft, tenor
Florian Boesch, bass
Martin Pöllmann, boy soprano

Paul Lorenger, dancer
Nadia Kichler, sign language performer

Arnold Schoenberg Choir
(Chorus master: Erwin Ortner)

Ensemble Matheus 
Conductor: Jean-Christophe Spinosi

Stage directorClaus Guth
Video director: Hannes Rossacher
Stage and costume design: Christian Schmidt
Lighting design: Jürgen Hoffmann
Choreographer: Ramses Sigl

Recorded live at the Theater an der Wien, 2009

(HD 1080p)

Uploaded on Youtube for the Blog "Faces of Classical Music"

First publication: January 3, 2015 – Last update: December 20, 2017

Jean-Christophe Spinosi

The story behind the triumphant premiere of Handel's Messiah

On April 13, 1742, Handel's ever-popular oratorio received its premiere in Dublin.

The tradition connecting Messiah with Christmas owes nothing to the oratorio's origins. The judicious compression of scriptural references to Jesus Christ was carefully designed by Charles Jennens, a Shakespeare scholar who was educated at Oxford. Jennens never gained a prominent position in society because he refused to take the vow of allegiance to the House of Hanover, and he also objected to the deposed House of Stuart's Catholicism. Jennens was a keen champion of Handel's music since at least 1725, when he ordered a copy of the printed edition of Rodelinda. By the mid-1730s, Jennens was personally acquainted with Handel, and he probably provided the libretto for Israel in Egypt (1738). In July 1741, Jennens wrote to his friend Edward Holdsworth: "Handel says he will do nothing next Winter, but I hope I shall perswade him to set another Scripture Collection I have made for him, and perform it for his own Benefit in Passion Week. I hope he will layout his whole Genius and Skill upon it, that the Composition may excell all his former Compositions, as the Subject excells every other Subject. The Subject is Messiah".

Jennens intended Messiah as a statement of faith in Christ's divinity, in reaction to the increasing popularity of rationalised atheism. It is difficult to discern what Handel thought about religion, but attractive legends such as him weeping over the score of Messiah are apocryphal. He composed it between August 22 and September 14, 1741, but the speed of its composition compares to Handel's normal rapidity and cannot be attributed to either divine or artistic inspiration: within days Handel started work on Samson, adapted from Milton's Samson Agonistes by Newburgh Hamilton, and that oratorio was also complete in its first draft by the end of October. Jennens arrived in London at the end of November 1741, and was surprised to discover that Handel was not there. Jennens wrote "I heard with great pleasure at my arrival in Town, that Handel had set the Oratorio of Messiah; but it was some mortification to me to hear that instead of performing it here he was gone into Ireland with it".

Not much is known about Handel's sudden acceptance of an invitation to perform in Ireland, but it was probably offered by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire. Handel's last two Italian operas, Imeneo and Deidamia, were both failures with fickle London audiences. Perhaps Handel foresaw abandoning the genre in Italian and concentrating upon theatre works in English. During this uncertain transition, the invitation to give a season of concerts at Dublin granted Handel an opportunity to escape the pressure in London and to consider his future.

Dublin had an active theatre and concert life and Handel's visit coincided with the opening of a new concert venue, the Great Music Hall in Fishamble Street, where Handel gave two performances each of L'Allegro, Acis and Galatea and Esther between December 1741 and February 1742. Handel only brought over the soprano Avolio and a few assistants from London, but the Lord Lieutenant's court at Dublin Castle boasted a small orchestra, and numerous professional singers worked at theatres and in the city's two cathedrals. These local musicians formed the core of Handel's musicians and the first series of subscription concerts was an enormous success. He was persuaded to stay longer than planned and produced another concert series which included Alexander's Feast and Hymen, an unstaged serenata adapted from Imeneo. This was Handel's last performance of an Italian opera.

The second series of concerts finished on April 7, 1742, but Handel was hungry to capitalise on his eager audience, so he arranged the first performance of Messiah for April 13. Expectation was high: the rehearsal on April 12 was ticketed and the following morning excited newspapers reported that the oratorio "far surpasses anything of that Nature, which has been performed in this or any other Kingdom". Advertisements requested that Ladies attend "without Hoops", and that "Gentlemen are desired to come without their swords" in order to increase the capacity of the hall. Handel estimated that the venue could hold 600, but an extra 100 people crammed in.

The premiere of Messiah was a triumph. The alto soloist, Susanna Cibber, was an actress who had attracted scandal in the past, but legend has it that her emotional performance of "He was despised" moved Dr Patrick Delany – the husband of one of Handel's most ardent champions – to exclaim "Woman, for this, be all your sins forgiven". The Dublin Journal's review proclaimed that "the best Judges allowed it to be the most finished piece of Musick. Words are wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring crouded Audience. The Sublime, the Grand, and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear".

Source: David Vickers, 2015 (

Τον Ιούλιο του 1741, ο Charles Jennens, Άγγλος ευγενής με φιλολογικά και καλλιτεχνικά ενδιαφέροντα, στέλνει στον στενό του φίλο Γκέοργκ Φρήντριχ Χαίντελ ένα νέο λιμπρέτο για ορατόριο. Την ίδια εποχή, γράφει σε επιστολή του: «Ελπίζω [ο Χαίντελ] να βάλει στο έργο όλη του την τέχνη και τη μεγαλοφυΐα, ώστε η σύνθεση αυτή να ξεπεράσει κάθε προηγούμενη, γιατί το θέμα της ξεπερνά κάθε άλλο».

Το ορατόριο «Μεσσίας» ολοκληρώθηκε στο χρόνο-ρεκόρ των 24 ημερών! Πρωτοπαρουσιάστηκε με εξαιρετική επιτυχία στο Δουβλίνο, στις 13 Απριλίου 1742. Ο συντάκτης της εφημερίδας Dublin News-Letter, ο οποίος παρακολούθησε την πρόβα, χαρακτήρισε το έργο «κατά πολύ ανώτερο από κάθε έργο του είδους του, που έχει γραφτεί ποτέ γι' αυτό το βασίλειο ή και για άλλα». Την ιστορική πρεμιέρα παρακολούθησαν 700 θεατές, γεμίζοντας ασφυκτικά το Great Music Hall του Δουβλίνου. Προκειμένου να χωρέσουν όσο το δυνατόν περισσότεροι θεατές, η διεύθυνση του θεάτρου ζήτησε από τους άνδρες θεατές να μη φέρουν σπαθιά και από τις γυναίκες να αποφύγουν να φορέσουν κρινολίνα. Η τεράστια επιτυχία της πρεμιέρας συνεχίστηκε στο Covent Garden του Λονδίνου, εξασφαλίζοντας στο έργο την αθανασία και καθιστώντας το ίσως το δημοφιλέστερο χορωδιακό έργο όλων των εποχών.

Το ορατόριο «Μεσσίας» είναι βασισμένο σε χωρία της Παλαιάς και της Καινής Διαθήκης. Είναι διαρθρωμένο σε τρία μέρη: Το πρώτο αναφέρεται στην προετοιμασία της έλευσης του Μεσσία και τη Γέννηση. Το δεύτερο, στα Πάθη, τη Σταύρωση και την Ανάσταση, που σκιαγραφείται με τη μουσική επιτομή της θεϊκής δόξας, το περίφημο χορωδιακό "Hallelujah". Το τρίτο αναφέρεται στη θεϊκή υπόσχεση για σωτηρία, στον ερχομό της Δευτέρας Παρουσίας και του θριάμβου έναντι του θανάτου και της αμαρτίας.


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