More from the Buxton Festival,
with MIKE WHEELER
Buxton Opera House, Buxton Festival, Derbyshire UK
10 July 2011
How operatic are Handel's English oratorios? The Buxton Festival attempts an answer with its staging of Saul, based on the Old Testament story but dealing with issues that were very much live for Handel and his contemporaries, not least: when is it legitimate to challenge royal authority?
To find a twentieth-century parallel, Olivia Fuchs sets her production in post-World War 2 America. Saul is the President, David a young returning airman welcomed home by ticker-tape and cheerleaders. As Saul becomes increasingly jealous of David's popularity, we watch the initial optimism slide into paranoia -- David's aria 'O Lord, Whose Mercies Numberless' is ironically counterpointed against a series of McCarthy-style interrogations -- and involvement in another war (the first scenes of Act 2 are set in an Oval Office dominated by a large map of Korea)...
Copyright © 16 July 2011