A remarkable achievement; since its inception in 2002, Pinchgut Opera has staged 20 rarely performed operas, many for the first time in this country. As Australia’s baroque opera company, Pinchgut is not in competition with other companies, rather it is complementary to them. In doing so, it has built a substantial and loyal audience base, essential as the company has received very little in subsidies over those years (it does receive practical in-kind help from Opera Australia). Pinchgut’s 2018 season opens with a production of Athalia by Handel. An English-language oratorio to a libretto by Samuel Humphreys based on a play by Racine, it was first performed in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford in July 1733. Athalia was a recurrent success during Handel’s lifetime, and experimental in that he gave the chorus a more profound role interacting with the principal characters. This means that Pinchgut’s excellent chorus Cantillation will be heard to even greater advantage with the Orchestra of the Antipodes.
The plot is based on the biblical Queen Athalia, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, bent on eliminating the Jewish line of kings descended from David. The high priest Joad leads resistance against the despotic Athalia, with his wife Josabeth sheltering the rightful heir, the boy king Joas. The title role will be sung by Australian soprano Emma Pearson, who will bring a beautiful voice and commanding presence to the role of Athalia.
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