When Pinchgut approached me about directing Athalia, I had just finished directing Theodorafor them and had the most extraordinary experience. I’m a big Handel fan anyway, but I didn’t know Athalia– I just like the idea of working with choruses. They are so amazing, the Cantillation group, and I guess the reason Pinchgut chose Athaliawas that it was very chorus-focused.
In preparing Athalia, I do listen to recordings but I generally start with the libretto, because the work is pretty arcane. I comb through it for how the characters reflect on themselves and talk about others, and look for clues in the da capoarias to understand what people are obsessing about. I also look for other sources of inspiration, because I’m not producing it in a vacuum, I’m producing it for a contemporary audience. The original Racine play that it’s based on, as well as Handel’s treatment of it, is quite difficult to enter into.
Director Lindy Hume. Photo © Lyndon Mechielsen
The challenge is that it’s not an opera, it’s an oratorio, so it’s about making the drama three-dimensional. I feel the piece...