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Saul - Glyndebourne on Tour - Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Louise Winter on 14th Nov 2015 | View all blogs by Louise Winter

Reviewed 13th November 2015

Saul Poster

Director Barrie Kosksy says ‘Triumph, joy, madness, death, battle, jealousy, rage. What more do you want at a night at the opera?’ Add in sadness, devastation, love, passion and a touch of the gruesome and you are getting near the scope of this production. This has to be the most exhilaratingly exciting Glyndebourne production of recent years. No emotion or sense is left untouched. It is utterly stupendous.

One of the most dramatic stories from the Old Testament, Handel’s version as an oratorio is influenced by King Lear and that is in evidence. Not originally written to be staged this is a gift for Kosky who, along with designer Katrin Lea Tag and choreographers Silvano Marraffa and Merry Holden, is free to create his own world of physical, dynamic direction resulting in drama on a massive scale both musically and visually.

Glyndebourne’s chorus at its best here. Kosky integrates them directly into the storyline giving them the same role as that of a Greek chorus where they become commentator, conscience and judge. Here there is direct interplay between the principals, acting skills brought to the fore. Witty touches to costumes, hair and make-up combined with innovative, contemporary, quirky choreography give much delight to the audience. Conductor Laurence Cummings whips the orchestra along but the pacing of Handel’s score is respected and he keeps the orchestra and on stage performers in perfect harmony throughout.

Kosky has focussed first and foremost on the man rather than the universal story; a man reacting to his unfolding situation and circumstances so we have a story and performance of humanity, or seemingly lack of on occasion. No narrow portrayal here but a powerful and superbly nuanced performance by Henry Waddington who encompasses the full range of extreme emotion. He is wonderful – a true force on stage. Saul’s disintegration is complete and punishing to witness. As the story unfolds and despair permeates, the staging moves from the high colour, brightly lit exuberance of Part 1 to Part II’s monochromatic, candlelit, shadowy atmosphere. Full credit to Joachim Klein for lighting this production so ingeniously.

Saul Richard Hubert Smith

image Richard Hart Smith

David, the catalyst for Saul’s decline is pitched perfectly by Christopher Ainslie, his countertenor contrasting with Waddington’s rumbling Bass-Baritone. O Lord, Whose Mercies Numberless from David attempting to placate Saul is stunning. David’s almost fragile naivety here is perfectly portrayed through Handel’s measured composition and Ainslie’s still, understated delivery. All performances are outstanding; exceptionally so, Benjamin Hulett as Jonathan, Sarah Tynan and Anna Devin as Merab and Michal respectively.

Saul David Jonathan Richard Hubert Smith

image Richard Hart Smith 

This is an epic production, a story of individuals, a family and a nation. At times harrowing, at others joyful but throughout, exciting, engaging and thoroughly confident. A superbly assured and dynamic production and utterly splendid.

Glyndebourne plays Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 14th November then continuing on tour.

Milton Keynes Box office 0844 871 7652



1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 2 years ago
    Thanks for your review, Louise.
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