The Adelaide Festival has announced the return of the brilliant and provocative, Barrie Kosky with his newest masterpiece, George Frideric Handel’s Saul. Produced by the great Glyndebourne Opera Festival, it will form the centrepiece of the 2017 Adelaide Festival.
Kosky, who directed a triumphant Adelaide Festival in 1996, has created an operatic work that is blazingly alive, pulsing with ferocious energy, deep melancholy, thrilling imagination and high drama. After gaining euphoric reviews upon its premiere at the Glyndebourne Festival in 2015, Kosky’s Saul will play to Adelaide Festival audiences in an Australian exclusive season.
“I am thrilled after 21 years to be coming back to the Adelaide Festival with an opera production that means so much to me,” said Barrie Kosky, speaking from Berlin. “I am also thrilled to be part of Neil and Rachel’s first festival and I am looking forward to a few warm, balmy nights on the Torrens at my favourite Arts Festival in the world.”
Saul explores the first King of Israel’s relationship with his eventual successor, David, as it swings between extremes of admiration, jealousy, love and rage, and finally leads to Saul’s tragic death. Handel’s characterisations of Saul and David, and his portrayal of the battle of David and Goliath, are among the German composer’s most powerful and vivid.
Supported by ravishing designs from Katrin Lea Tag, Kosky delves into Handel’s score to create an associative dreamscape and a baroque nightmare world in which unfolds this mythic tale of a Lear-like mad king and his crumbling family dynasty.
The first of Handel’s great English oratorios, Saul melds psychologically probing arias with exquisite, mighty choruses in a work epic in theatrical scale and emotion, described by Kosky as “one of the great pieces of 18th-century music.”
Conducting the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra will be rising star of Australian baroque performance, Erin Helyard, newly appointed Artistic Director of Sydney’s renowned Pinchgut Opera, and celebrated Musical Director of Brisbane Baroque.
Reprising the title role of Saul from the original Glyndebourne Festival season is charismatic bass-baritone Christopher Purves, one of the finest performers on the international stage. American countertenor Christopher Lowrey will sing David, and Australian tenor Adrian Strooper, a member of Barrie’s company at Komische Oper Berlin, will play Saul’s son (and David’s lover) Jonathan.
Renowned young British soprano Mary Bevan will be joined by Australia’s Taryn Fiebig as Saul’s daughters Merab and Michal, the inimitable Kanen Breen will play the Witch of Endor, and Stuart Jackson will reprise his brilliant turn as the High Priest – Kosky’s fabulous Master of these amazing ceremonies.
“Kosky’s virtuosic stagecraft, rich imaginative world and subversive humour is perfectly matched with Handel’s magnificent oratorio,” said Adelaide Festival Artistic Directors Neil Armfield AO and Rachel Healy. “Sitting in the Glyndebourne Festival audience in August 2015 it could not have been clearer that we were witnessing an artist at the peak of his powers. Barrie has created a work that is deservedly being regarded as a masterpiece.”
“There are many significant and acclaimed Australian artists who have built stellar careers overseas and it is unfortunate that Australian audiences don’t always have an opportunity to see their work at its full maturity. Consequently, we are immensely pleased that the 2017 Adelaide Festival will provide the platform for audiences to see international performing arts of this standard of achievement. That Barrie has a special connection to the Adelaide Festival is a delightful bonus.”
Barrie Kosky is one of the world’s finest living theatre and opera directors. The Laurence Olivier Award winner was born in Melbourne and lives in Berlin. In 1996, Kosky became the youngest ever Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival aged 29, and delivered one of the most memorable festivals in its 50-plus-year history.
He was Artistic Director of the Schauspielhaus Vienna from 2001-2005, and was appointed the Artistic Director of the Komische Oper Berlin in 2012. At the end of his first season, the Komische Oper was voted ’Opera House of the Year’ by 50 international opera critics and more recently won the International Opera Award for Opera Company of 2015.
Kosky’s celebrated opera and theatre work includes productions for Opera Australia, the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Netherlands Opera, Oper Frankfurt, Los Angeles Opera, English National Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Belvoir, Malthouse Theatre, Sydney and Melbourne International Festivals, and many more.
Based in the Sussex countryside, Glyndebourne is one of the world’s great opera houses, and is home to the famous annual Glyndebourne Festival. Its productions travel worldwide, are performed live in other opera houses and screened in cinemas from New York to Tokyo.
Festival Theatre – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Performances: 3, 5, 7 & 9 March 2016
Information and Bookings: www.adelaidefestival.com.au
Image: Saul – photo by Bill Cooper