SOLOMON | London, Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera Chorus joined the Orchestra of Early Opera Company for this one-night concert production of Handel’s beautiful oratorio, returning to the site of its 1749 premiere in Covent Garden. “The Arrival Of The Queen of Sheba” is still one of the most beloved orchestral classics of all time.

It was wonderful to see the Royal Opera Chorus take literal centre stage, on raked steps, for the many choral numbers. Somehow, Curnyn’s direction always found new strength here, leading to a phenomenal finale of “Praise the Lord with harp and tongue”.

In the title role, American countertenor Lawrence Zazzo used his soaring, lilting voice to eek out every last drop of music in each phrase; an absolute privilege to hear. Soprano Sophie Bevan, a regular performer at the Royal Opera House, also shone as Solomon’s Queen, enjoying a particularly sweet duet with Solomon, “Welcome as the dawn of day”, in the first act.

The Orchestra of Early Opera Company played at a terrific pace, with fast detached phrases in the strings sounding especially virtuosic, and always perfectly crisp. Delightfully, the woodwind sounded authentically wonky, especially the Handel-commissioned “Stanesby” contrabassoon.

Judging by the audience’s response, a roaring success, and a very welcome home for this late baroque masterpiece.

Visit the Royal Opera House website for information about upcoming performances.

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