Revival of a production from the Mozart Week 2020.

A coproduction of Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg with the Salzburg Festival and the Théâtre des Champs Elysées.

‘Behold! I tell you a mystery...’

Handel’s Messiah aims — in the words of its com­poser — at ‘sublimest sentiments’. It dwells on ulti­mate concerns, but also on humanity’s concrete fears, troubles and hopes. Messiah has no plot. The work does not tell a story like the Passions or the Christmas Oratorio of Johann Sebastian Bach. The title figure — the Messiah — does not appear. He is as it were absent from the piece. We do not learn anything specific about his life and work, his suffering and death, or the circumstances of his resurrection. In his oratorio, first performed in Dublin in 1742, Handel lets us experience how a group of individuals, struggling to find solace
in their faith, encounter the great questions of life and death.
When Mozart reorchestrated the work in German translation in 1789, he instinctively grasped the ‘sublimest sentiments’ that Handel was concerned with, bringing them home to his Viennese audiences with his own characteristic sonorities. 45 years after the work was originally composed, orchestral sound had developed in new directions. Mozart accord­ingly invented rich woodwind parts, filling out the contrapuntal structure contrived so ingeniously by Handel with new colours.

For US­-American director and visual artist Robert Wilson, the work’s strict structure, determined by the alternation between solo numbers for the four vocal soloists and an equal number of choral sections, constitutes the starting point for a staged perform­ance that works with surreal images and attempts
to create a vessel for the music. He is not concerned with ‘interpreting’ the biblical texts that in Handel’s setting become the basis for a monumental paint­ing of the conditio humana. He wants to invite the audience on a spiritual journey. Perhaps Wilson’s visual and dramatic inventions together with Mozart’s sonorities can lead us to re­-experience Messiah in a completely new way?

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