Given their splendid, highly affective music, riveting drama and continuing appeal and relevance to today’s audiences, it is hardly surprising that Handel’s late oratorios have often been described as his greatest operas. Accordingly, staged productions of Handel’s oratorios have increasingly entered the repertoire of the world’s great opera houses.
With Joshua, Opera North now takes on one of Handel’s greatest works from the height of his late creative period. Conveying the Old Testament story of Moses’ successor as he leads the Israelites in conquest of Canaan, it marries spiritual meditation and the most tender of love stories with the kind of epic plot line most people would associate with the latest Hollywood movie.
Handel deploys all of his vast experience as an opera composer in his highly theatrical and pictorial score. Strongly characterised, Joshua includes a marvellous series of set-piece moments, such as the collapse of the walls of Jericho and the miracle of the sun and moon standing still at the battle of Gibeon. As you would expect from the composer of the Messiah, Joshua also contains some of Handel’s most monumental choral music. The triumphal return of Othniel after his victory at Debir is celebrated in one of Handel’s most famous choruses, ‘See, the conqu’ring hero comes!’ best known in its incarnation as the hymn tune ‘Thine Be the Glory’.
Joshua was first performed in 1748 at the Covent Garden Theatre in London. Its military themes struck an immediate chord with a public in a triumphalist mood following the defeat of the Jacobite uprising in 1746, quickly turning the piece into one of the most successful of Handel's later oratorios. Now staged in Leeds Grand Theatre by director/designer Charles Edwards, this new presentation returns the work to its roots in the theatre. Tackling the militaristic undertones of the original by exploring the costs of war on the individual and society, Edwards converts the work's original message into a passionate plea for peace and understanding.
Lasts approximately 2 hours 30 minutes.