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Thursday, April 20, 2017


(Naum Rousine. Pic by Val Adamson)

Regal, lavish, flamboyant and quite magnificently performed. (Review by Keith Millar)

George Frederick Handel. One of the greatest composers of the baroque era. He was born in Germany in 1685, but spent the larger part of his career in Britain. He settled in London in 1712 and became a naturalised British subject in 1727.

During his prolific and influential career, he composed 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios and duets, numerous arias, chamber music, many ecumenical pieces, odes and serenades and 16 organ concerti.

However, the most famous and beloved work to come from the pen of this musical genius is beyond doubt, his oratorio Messiah. Composed in 1741, with the scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennings, it remains one of the most performed choral works of all time, with the rousing and majestic Hallelujah chorus being the best known and adored examples of choral music ever written.

The oratorio is composed in three parts. Firstly, there are prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. Then the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection of Christ. The final part is about Christ’s final victory over sin.

The content makes the work suitable for performance at both at Easter and Christmas.

To that end, Durban’s Playhouse Company has over the years staged many excellent productions of this iconic work over the Easter weekend. This year was no different, with a memorable performance of the oratorio taking place on Easter Sunday in the Opera Theatre at the Playhouse.

The production featured Durban’s outstanding KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, the brilliant 60 strong Playhouse Chorale and esteemed soloists, Aubrey Lodewyk (baritone), Khumbuzile Dlamini (soprano), Violina Anguelov (mezzo-soprano) and Thabiso Masemene (tenor).

The conductor for the event was Naum Rousine who elicited a beautifully nuanced, balanced and stirring performance from the orchestra and singers alike.

The production was directed by Marcus Desando. The very experienced Desando created a colourful spectacle with a partially-staged production. All the choir members and soloists where dressed in biblical period costumes and moved about a stage festooned with hay bales. To complete the panorama, biblical scenes where projected onto a huge screen at the rear of the stage to act as a backdrop.

Other than the magnificent Hallelujah Chorus, Messiah offers a plethora of other quite magnificent music. Choral works such as For Unto Us a Child Is Born and And The Glory of the Lord along with superb solos such as Every Valley, He Was Despised, I Know That My Redeemer Liveth, Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion, The Trumpet Shall Sound and Why Do The Nations So Furiously Rage Together are all dramatic, beautiful and moving songs.

This year’s production of Handel’s Messiah was regal, lavish, flamboyant and quite magnificently performed. It was every bit deserving of the extended standing ovation and cheers received at the end. – Keith Millar