Classical Review: Oratorio Handel: Esther Jerusalem Theater

The Israel Festival’s opening of its classical music events May 24 was conducted by David Stern.

By URY EPPSTEIN
June 3, 2013 20:58
1 minute read.
The Jerusalem Theater.

jerusalem theater 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Israel Festival’s opening of its classical music events was Handel’s Esther, conducted by David Stern.

It indeed takes a festival to assemble the musical forces required for such a superb performance of an unjustifiably neglected masterpiece.

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Handel himself seems not to have been aware he was writing an oratorio, not an opera, when composing this work, one of his first oratorios. Except for stage action and sets, it possesses all the musical ingredients of opera – an immensely dramatic choir, a richly versatile theatrical orchestra, and vocally as well as emotionally highly impressive singers.

As Haman, Oded Reich’s dark bass-baritone appropriately personified Jagolike evil, subsequently metamorphosed into a compassion-evoking tragic figure as could happen only, not in the Bible, but in a Handel opera, always profoundly sensitive to human vices and frailties.

In the title role, Claire Meghnagi’s bright soprano convincingly portrayed the irresistible, manipulative feminine charm and scheming of a self-assured yet discreet femme fatale, transforming finally into a vengeful fury, spiced with stunning coloraturas.

King Ahasverus, far from being a solemn, selfimportant monarch, was credibly represented by Jeffrey Francis as an emotionridden human lover by his soft, appealing lyric tenor.

The Israeli Vocal Ensemble, with its rich, full and perfectly balanced sound, forcefully and subtly conveyed the abundant dramatic and emotional events.


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