Opera: Handel’s Messiah

Opera: Handel’s Messiah

29th November 2015 @ 13:30
Norwegian Church
1 Albion St
London SE16
Adults: £12, Children under 10: FREE
01892 871 377 / 0778 236 1998




In the Merry Opera Company’s acclaimed dramatic staging of Handel’s Messiah, twelve strangers seek spiritual comfort in their struggle to understand their troubled lives. Through the words and music of this most beloved oratorio they inspire each other to look to the future with hope.



Director’s note about Handel’s Messiah


Not being a huge fan of staged productions of Messiah myself is, paradoxically, a good starting point from which to shoulder the responsibility of staging this major hinge of Western culture. My intention throughout our rehearsals has been to do the minimum necessary to shed the most light on the piece and make audiences hear it afresh, even those who have known the piece all their lives. I have approached the oratorio as a meditation on faith, what it means to believe, what it means to have that figure of the Messiah in your heart; therefore we also need to deal with the converse of that – what it is like not to have that conviction and to know and feel that absence. I’d like to think I am also paying homage to the performance history of the piece. There is no lighting other than the church lights, no set other than the church architecture, some props but not many. There is no “period feel” – it’s all happening right here, right now, in this church, as it always has. Six weeks before rehearsaIs began, I sent each cast member a short biography/backstory of the character they would play in the piece, a thumbnail sketch of the narrative of their life, what has brought them to a spiritual place both figuratively and literally, where they need help and comfort. Through Handel’s Messiah, they find the solutions or at least the strength to cope with their worries; a crucial part of this is that they are not alone. The world in which they live, the sea in which they swim, the way they get to know each other will be the music and words of Messiah. There is no need for these personal narratives to impede the central story of Birth, Death and Resurrection. That is the only story I want to tell this evening. The personal character narratives, which will not be explicitly told, provide the singers with a need to discover the piece and find motivations to sing from particular viewpoints that will provide rich and unexpected vocal colours. As the characters progress through the piece, the audience will see them transform and blossom. For centuries, Handel’s Messiah has brought strangers together and, through the singing of this unparalleled masterpiece, they have become as one.

John Ramster


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