After a forced two-year break, the Handel Festival is primed and ready for its grand anniversary season. Besides the new production of Orlando at the Halle Opera that opens the festival on 27 May, numerous other items on the programme make reference to the founding year of 1922 – an exciting look back over the Handel reception of the past one hundred years, for which several of the abridged versions or orchestral arrangements of Handel’s works created for that occasion have been reconstructed and which the audiences will be able to rediscover.
A look back over 100 years of Handel in Halle
Besides Orlando, opera fans can look forward to another four stage works by Handel. At the same time, the premiere of Caio Fabbricio marks the first performance of this virtuoso pasticcio in modern times. There will also be five oratorio performances (including a number of staged versions) by the composer.
Running until June 12, this anniversary Handel Festival offers an extremely broad-ranging programme. Besides traditional events, including the open-air concerts in the Galgenberg Gorge with works such as Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music, illustrated by a spectacular fireworks display, the programme focuses on two key themes.
Firstly, to mark the festival’s centenary there will be adapted versions, based on the historical sources, of all nine concert, opera and oratorio programmes from 1922, including the festival lecture and church service. Certain events will not only be held in the same venues as then, but in some cases will be performed by the Halle ensembles whose predecessors were involved in that founding year – an exciting task as well as a challenge for the entire festival family.
The second key theme is the chance to see and hear numerous prominent, former Handel Prize winners who were determined not to pass up this chance to return to the city of the composer’s birth in this anniversary year and celebrate with their fans. They will be appearing alongside other internationally renowned stars of the early music scene in a line-up that includes William Christie, Jordi Savall, Philippe Jaroussky, Vivica Genaux and Valer Sabadus. Accompanying them will be internationally sought-after period ensembles, such as the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Wolfgang Katschner’s Lautten Compagney, Les Arts Florissants and the Portuguese ensemble Divino Sospiro, who will be making their debut in Halle. But Handel fan Donna Leon will also be making a guest appearance in Halle and hosting a musical and literary evening with the Italian Baroque orchestra, Il Pomo d’oro.
Handel for all
In addition to the great operas and oratorios and the wide-ranging programme of chamber music and orchestral, choral and church concerts, the festival again includes some exciting new formats that place Handel’s music in the context of the 21st century. These include jazz adaptations of the Handel Songbook, the Poetry Slam, first held in 2018, and the Baroque Lounges. In this context, the festival is for the first time collaborating with WUK Theater Quartier and invites festival visitors to a grand Club Night.
But even that is not all. For numerous events the city itself will be the stage, with the official opening ceremony, street theatre on Marktplatz, promenade concerts in the Botanical Garden and the Water Music on the River Saale – not to forget a number of free events, such as the grand Organ Night on 27 May and the traditional Family Festival the next day.