Deborah Warner stages a new production of Handel’s Messiah at ENO
Date published: Fri 30 Oct 2009
Deborah Warner directs a new staging of Handel’s famous oratorio for ENO. For almost a quarter of a century, from Nicholas Hytner’s Olivier Award-winning Xerxes to Christopher Alden’s Olivier Award-winning Partenope in 2008, ENO has been the undisputed ‘House of Handel’. ENO has also gained a reputation for bringing sacred masterworks to the stage including Verdi’s Requiem and Deborah Warner’s production of Bach’s St John Passion in 2000.
Handel’s famous work remains one of the most popular choral pieces in the western world. Warner’s direction aims to explore the profundities and hidden meanings of the work, which touches on the deep implications of good and evil, the past and future, and the belief in final victory over sin, death and decay and above all the works overriding sense of community. The new staging of Handel’s Messiah is set in a contemporary community and ENO has recruited around 40 people of varied ages and backgrounds who live, work or study in Westminster to create a ‘community ensemble’ to participate in a non-singing capacity and create a crowd dynamic.
Warner’s career began in 1987 with the RSC and she is known for her interpretation of the works of Shakespeare, Brecht, Büchner and Ibsen. Most recently Warner has directed a new production of Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children for the National Theatre. Her opera directing includes a highly acclaimed Death in Venice for ENO in 2007. The creative team for Messiah consists of regular collaborators including designer Tom Pye who has created many sets and costumes in the world of theatre, opera and television; award-winning lighting designer Jean Kalman, and film choreographer Kim Brandstrup.
Conductor Laurence Cummings has a longstanding relationship with ENO, and is noted for his exciting and versatile Handel interpretations both as a conductor and a keyboard player. He conducts a stellar cast including soprano Sophie Bevan, alto Catherine Wyn-Rogers, tenor John Mark Ainsley and bass Brindley Sherratt all of whom work regularly with ENO.
Working in partnership, the BBC, led by BBC Radio 3, and English National Opera have created Sing Hallelujah, a UK-wide project to encourage people to find their voice and discover the joy of singing through Handel’s famous ‘Hallelujah Chorus’.
The programme of events across the UK includes a special Sing Hallelujah weekend which provides opportunities for beginners and enthusiastic amateurs to participate in two BBC/ENO events at Glasgow City Halls (5 December) and the London Coliseum (6 December). Singers of all abilities will join together to learn and perform the famous ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ led by Sue Hollingworth with the help of BBC and ENO.
At the centre of the project is the new interactive website – www.bbc.co.uk/sing - which provides a range of innovative and freshly commissioned content, to inspire and teach online users. Broadcasts across the BBC culminate in Radio 3’s transmission of ENO’s production of Messiah on Christmas Day.
BBC Radio 3 and ENO are each dedicated to bringing classical music to a wider public and this collaboration, with support from BBC Learning, brings together their valuable resources of experience and knowledge of singing. From 1750 onwards Handel performed Messiah annually to raise money for the children of the Foundling Hospital. In this spirit, the project encourages donations from performances and events to BBC Children in Need.
Messiah opens at the London Coliseum on 27 November for 9 performances – 1, 2, 4, 8, 10 11 December at 7pm and 29 November & 6 December at 3pm.
Supported by the English Opera Group.
Pre-performance talk with Deborah Warner: 29 November, 1pm, London Coliseum, £4
Box Office: 0871 911 2000 or online www.eno.org