I took time out from a busy week yesterday evening for a performance by Welsh National Opera of Jephtha by George Frideric Handel. Based on a biblical story (from the Book of Judges) late in Handel’s life, indeed it was the last major work Handel wrote, Jephtha was written as an oratorio rather than an opera and was first performed as such in 1752.
Last night’s production brought movement, scenery and costumes to Handel’s lovely music in an attempt to turn it into an opera. It was only partially successful in doing that. Owing to the nature of the piece, it appeared as a series of rather static tableaux rather than a compelling music drama. It did however, feature excellent music and singing, and very imaginative use of a rather simple set, an interior of faded and battered opulence, complete with broken plaster and bullet holes, and costumes that evoke the period leading up to World War II.
You can get a good idea of the look of the performance in the following WNO trailer:
The story revolves around the character Jephtha who is called upon to lead the people of Gilead in battle against Ammon. He takes up ...