If Handel’s Alexander Balus is hardly ever performed anywhere in the world, it mustn’t be very good, right?
Wrong, wrong, O so wrong! Conductor (and Handel specialist) Brett Weymark says that Alexander Balus has some of Handel’s best music. Circumstances have conspired against it becoming well known (the death of the Prince of Wales in 1751 could have been better timed), but this oratorio is packed full of magical, expressive, surprising, delicious, dramatic, heart-breaking music.
Just listen to Renée Fleming singing ‘Calm thou my soul / Convey me to some peaceful shore’. Then close your eyes and imagine listening to it in the darkened Playhouse, sung by Jacqueline Porter as Cleopatra after she’s learned that her husband and father have both been killed in war. SO much more powerful… and an experience that may not be repeated for many years to come.
All of our soloists are in fine voice, and Handel has given them the finest of music. The sublime counter tenor of Tobias Cole is riveting in the enraged ‘Fury, with red sparkling eyes’; Christopher Saunders’s gorgeous tenor is inspirational in ‘To God, Who made the radiant sun’; Christopher Richardson’s deep bass is villainous in ‘Ungrateful child’ and Christina Wilson’s rich mezzo brings great beauty to ‘So shall the sweet attractive smile’. And Jacqueline Porter … she’ll completely break your heart.
Then there’s ‘the band’. Some of the best baroque specialists in Australia (if not the world), their collective CVs reflect extensive experience with the Australian Baroque Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Antipodes, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and many others. We are so blessed that musicians of the calibre of Biancca Porcheddu and Erin Helyard choose to call Canberra home, and that interstate colleagues such as Kirsten Barry, Anthea Cottee and Helen Cosgrove have come to join them for this performance. It’s very rare that Canberrans have the opportunity to hear an ensemble of this quality in our own capital.
So you really don’t want to miss out on tomorrow night—7.30pm Saturday 20 September in the Canberra Playhouse. Tickets through Canberra Theatre.