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
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
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
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.