A biblical epic

The New Vocal Ensemble perform’s Handel’s ‘Esther,’ the first oratorio ever written.

New Vocal Ensemble (photo credit: Courtesy)
New Vocal Ensemble
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The New Vocal Ensemble, together with soloists from Israel and abroad, accompanied by the early music Baroccade ensemble, will perform Handel’s Esther on May 21 – 25. The concerts will take place in Ra’anana, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, the latter within the framework of the Israel Festival.
“ Esther was the first oratorio ever written. Handel composed it when he was 33, six years after moving from Germany to England,” says Yuval Ben- Ozer, artistic director of the New Vocal Ensemble. “Handel probably realized that there was a big potential audience for this genre – not aristocracy but rather the new middle class, which started to emerge in England following the Industrial Revolution. The specific genre he created was close to opera but was much less expensive, since it did not require props or costumes; but it bore a resemblance to opera because it retained such important elements as conspiracy, intrigue and captivating drama. In addition, the choir was very important. The story was taken from the Bible and was familiar to everyone, and that was a winning combination. Everybody could easily identify with it, and it was good for the Church, too.
Esther is a beautiful piece that showcases Handel’s immense talent. Following its success, he kept composing oratorios,” says Ben-Ozer.
David Stern, the artistic director of the Israeli Opera, will lead the musical forces.
“Stern specializes in Baroque music,” says Ben-Ozer. “In Paris he has an ensemble of his own, with which he performs throughout the world. That is why we invited him.”
Among the soloists are talented young Israeli singers soprano Claire Meghnagi, baritone Oded Reich, countertenor Alon Harari.
“And Jeff Francis, a British tenor with a sound international career, will appear with the New Vocal Ensemble for the first time,” adds Ben-Ozer. “I actually am not sure if he has ever performed in Israel. So how do they say – the ingredients are good, so the cake should be good, too,” he says with a smile. “Well, if they don’t overdo it!”
The concerts take place in Ra’anana on May 21 (09) 746-4036; Tel Aviv on May 23 (03) 607-7020); Jerusalem on May 24 (*6226); and Haifa on May 25 (04) 836-3804.