Mar 25, 2006

Miles Berry

Clare and I drove up to the Barbican last Saturday to catch William Christie and Les Arts Florissants‘ production, originally for Aix-en-Provence, of Handel’s Hercules.

I’ve enjoyed staged versions of oratorios in the past – Glyndebourne did a brilliant, dystopian Theodora, and I’ve seen two very different, but equally outstanding versions of Semele, at Covent Garden and the Coliseum. The ENO’s staged version of the St John Passion was one of the most moving evenings we’ve spent at the theatre, and I’d be delighted to see it revived.

Photo from the Telegraph

(From the Telegraph’s review)

Hercules, however, suffers from, in my view, a relatively weak plot in which not much happens. That said, we thoroughly enjoyed this production. In part this was due to the fine music, and some excellent singing, perhaps particularly from Hanna Bayodi singing Iole from the pit, whilst Ingela Bohlin, who was suffering from a throat infection, mimed the role on stage – a little weird at first, but we soon got used to it. Her aria at the start of Act II, in which Iole longs for a simple life, “By murm’ring rills, on verdant plains, to tend the flocks with vilage swains”, was especially lovely. The direction though, and the acting, were brilliant: the scene of the hero’s return, in which he soaked up the acclaim of the crowd but pretty much ignored his wife was really effective, and set the agenda for much of what followed.

I thought the modern setting, admittedly with nods in the direction of the classical past, worked really well, and that the “Benetton meets Bosnia” costumes drew very effective parallels with far too many modern day conflicts.