Handel’s Messiah: The Live Experience ★★ Theatre Royal Drury Lane | December 6, 2022


Handel had a sense of spectacle! Both Water Music and the Music for the Royal Fireworks demonstrate a flair for the dramatic. So, the idea of a Messiah that incorporates lighting effects, dance and spoken word into its production sounds like something that would definitely appeal to the composer. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work out. While the London Symphony Chorus and the English Chamber Orchestra both do a fine job, the show doesn't come together. The organic and sometimes galactic lighting projections really don't add much, and ultimately, they are more distracting than enhancing. Similarly, the dance routines, while competently executed, add nothing as an interpretation of Handel's masterpiece. However, the introduction of 'narrators' to the oratorio is beyond unnecessary. Their presence and the 'poetry' they recite actually serve to undermine the experience. On the other hand, the four principal vocalists all acquitted themselves well. Soprano Danielle de Niese found her form and tenor Nicky Spence was delightful, although we saw rather little of him because of cuts to the score. Bass-baritone Cody Quattlebaum brought a commanding stage presence to his role and contralto Idunnu Münch put in a solid performance. The costuming ranged from incomprehensible battle fatigues to what looked like uncomfortable hieratic headgear. Again, it was unclear what the concept was supposed to be. Traditionally for the Hallelujah chorus the public stands. On this occasion some followed that convention, others remained seated, but a certain number of the audience had already exited. Unfortunately, this production is less spectacle and more salmagundi.

Rated: ★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Craig Fuller.

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