theartsdesk in Göttingen: Handel Festival 2012 | Opera reviews, news & interviews
theartsdesk in Göttingen: Handel Festival 2012
Young performers and Europe's oldest early music festival make for an energetic combination
Other towns may choose national heroes as their emblems – posing generals, politicians or sword-wielding officers on horseback, glaring sternly down from their plinths – but not Göttingen. It is entirely in keeping with the unassuming, unobtrusive loveliness of this small town in Lower Saxony that its symbol should be not a grandee but a goose-girl.
The delicate art nouveau statue of the young girl and her feathery charges that tops the fountain in the market square (pictured below) is the heart of the town, kissed in ritual celebration by every graduating doctoral student. But while students and the life of the celebrated university (home to over 40 Nobel Prize-winners during the past century) dominate Göttingen most of the year, for 10 days every spring the town is taken over by visitors from across the world, the ever-growing audience for Göttingen’s annual Handel Festival.
Sigrid T'Hooft's Amadigi offers the illusion of taking a trip into Handel’s own performing past
The oldest ongoing early music festival in Europe, the Göttingen Handel Festival survived even the Second World War, as a faded opera poster from the 1945 season proudly testifies. Newer rival festivals may have sprung up in Handel’s nearby birthplace of Halle as well of course as London, but there remains an energy and an intimacy to Göttingen that sets it apart as the festival’s new musical director Laurence Cummings explains.
“Göttingen has such a wonderful family feeling," he says. "Suddenly the whole city becomes Handel-mad; the shop windows are all filled with Handel displays, and there’s the sense that everyone is very honoured to host the festival. It’s a great atmosphere for making music.”
This season marks Cummings’s debut as musical director, the third British conductor in a row to hold the appointment, following John Eliot Gardiner and Nicholas McGegan. Despite the natural ties between England and Handel, it was a role Cummings (already director of the London Handel Festival) hadn’t expected to gain. With two major celebrations approaching in 2014 (for the anniversary of the Hanoverian Succession) and 2020 (to mark the festival’s own 100th anniversary) Cummings’s major focus in his new post is to ensure a performance of all Handel’s 47 operas by 2020 – a goal that will incorporate major works alongside some seldom-heard rarities.
Traditionally the festival has been unified each year around a different theme or motto, a practice Cummings fully intends to continue – with a slight difference. “While Handel will continue to be the festival mainstay”, he explains “our programming will hopefully begin to broaden its outlook on the composer. It’s always interesting to think laterally, to put music alongside quite different music and see how that juxtaposition changes your view of the Handel we know and love already.”
This year’s theme of “Love and Jealousy” however sits squarely in Handel heartland, opening with Handel’s first English oratorio Esther with its persuasive and seductive heroine (not forgetting the jealous Haman) and closing with Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, described by Cummings as “one of the greatest stories for both love and jealousy of all time”. The centrepiece however is a fully-staged production of Amadigi, mounted in Göttingen’s demure Deutsches Theater.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
The outstanding American singer on winning Cardiff, crying in performance and Kate Bush
Stylish performances and a classic contemporary opera are lost in this awkward space
Carry On Up the Dnieper barely redeemed by decent musical values
First opera in candlelit Jacobean theatre shows promising shape of things to come
High art and low comedy on a cultural trip Down Under
Compelling dream-interpretation of Strauss's myth graced by fine singing and conducting
Bizet's culinary operetta with random seasoning, no elixir and no meat
Season preview for this opera-house aristocrat's new era under conductor Robin Ticciati
The great New Zealand soprano embraces septuagenarian status in Covent Garden style
Donizetti's potboiler bubbles at lowish temperatures, but a star tenor still hits the high Cs
Daring production of an innovative opera-ballet in a perfect 18th-century theatre
Richard Jones' tragicomic mobster Handel, superbly cast, shows us what opera can do