Barrie Kosky’s sensational staging of Handel’s oratorio marries spectacle and psychology
David has vanquished the giant Goliath, but not everyone rejoices in his victory. Jealous of the young warrior, King Saul turns against him, descending into violent, destructive madness that forces his children to choose between loyalty and love, tearing both a family and a nation apart.
A blazingly original and visually spectacular staging
Handel’s vision of a Lear-like king is astonishing in its psychological complexity, offering a musical portrait of mental collapse few have since matched. Combined with thrilling choruses that exploit the virtuosic potential of their singers, exquisite arias and bold orchestration filled with unusual instruments, it creates a Biblical drama of truly Shakespearean scope.
Fresh from its triumph at the 2015 Glyndebourne Festival, Barrie Kosky’s blazingly original and visually spectacular staging of Handel’s oratorio returns for a first revival, pairing baroque music with contemporary choreography and lavish designs to create an enthralling theatrical fusion of old and new.
Handel expert Laurence Cummings conducts an all-star cast, including Festival favourites Iestyn Davies and Allan Clayton.
A revival of the Festival 2015 production. Sung in English with English supertitles
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Cast and creative team
Conductor Laurence Cummings
Director Barrie Kosky
Designer Katrin Lea Tag
Choreographer Otto Pichler
Lighting Designer Joachim Klein
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Leader Kati Debretzeni
Solo organ James McVinnie
Cello continuo Jonathan Manson
Bass continuo Carina Cosgrave
Theorbo continuo David Miller
Harpsichord continuo Matthew Fletcher
Organ continuo & carillon Bernard Robertson
The Glyndebourne Chorus
Chorus Master Nicholas Jenkins
Assistant Conductor David Bates
Music Preparation Kate Golla, Gareth Hancock, Bernard Robertson
Associate Director Donna Stirrup
Assistant Director Oliver Platt
Assistant Choreographer Merry Holden
Merab Karina Gauvin
Michal Anna Devin
Saul/Apparition of Samuel Markus Brück
David Iestyn Davies
Jonathan Allan Clayton
Abner/High Priest/Amalekite/Doeg Stuart Jackson
Witch of Endor John Graham-Hall
Dancers Robin Gladwin, Ellyn Hebron, Thomas Herron, Merry Holden, Gareth Mole, Yasset Roldan
Dates and times
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Performance schedule Gardens Performance Transport Date Open Start *Long interval Finish Train departs Victoria Post opera coach Thursday 19 July
2.00 4.35 6.25 9.00 12.46 9.25 Sunday 22 July 2.00 4.00 5.50 8.25 12.46 8.55 Friday 27 July 3.00 5.20 7.10 9.45 1.46 10.15 Monday 30 July 3.00 5.20 7.10 9.45 1.46 10.15 Friday 3 August 2.00 4.35 6.25 9.00 12.46 9.25 Wednesday 8 August 2.00 4.35 6.25 9.00 12.46 9.25 Saturday 11 August 2.00 4.35 6.25 9.00 12.46 9.25 Monday 13 August <30 2.00 4.35 6.25 9.00 12.46 9.25 Thursday 16 August 2.00 4.35 6.25 9.00 12.46 9.25 Saturday 18 August 2.00 4.35 6.25 9.00 12.46 9.25 Tuesday 21 August <30 2.00 4.35 6.25 9.00 12.46 9.25 Thursday 23 August <30 2.00 4.35 6.25 9.00 12.46 9.25 Saturday 25 August 2.00 4.35 6.25 9.00 12.46 9.25
<30 Glyndebourne Under 30s performance
Dining and ticket option available
*Long dining interval
Our long dining interval lasts for 90 minutes
The Israelites give thanks to God and sing praises to David for his victory over Goliath, the Philistine giant. David is welcomed by Saul, King of Israel, his son Jonathan, his two daughters Michal and Merab, and Abner, his commander-in-chief. Jonathan swears eternal friendship to David. Saul offers David Merab’s hand in marriage, but she scorns his humble origins. Her sister Michal, however, is in love with him. The women of Israel offer further tributes to David, which makes Saul furiously jealous and fearful for his crown. After he leaves, Jonathan reproaches the women for their rash words and urges David to soothe Saul by playing his harp.
Abner returns to report Saul’s madness. Saul reappears venting his anger and attempts to kill David, who manages to escape unharmed. Saul commands Jonathan to destroy David, while Merab comments on her father’s capricious behaviour. Jonathan feels torn between his conflicting loyalties to David and to his father. The High Priest and the Israelites pray for David’s safety.
The people of Israel ponder the destructive power of jealousy. Jonathan confesses to David that Saul has ordered him to kill him, but that he will never harm David. He tells David that Saul has given his daughter Merab to another man, but David is undisturbed, since he loves Michal. Jonathan urges David to escape. Saul arrives and asks Jonathan if he has obeyed his command to kill David, and Jonathan pleads with his father to spare his friend. Saul seemingly relents, asking Jonathan to summon David back to court. Jonathan welcomes David back, while Saul feigns friendship, offering David Michal’s hand and appointing him commander of the Israelite army. David promises loyalty. Saul voices his secret hope that David will be slain by the Philistines. Michal and David declare their love for one another. The chorus praises David’s virtue.
Upon his return from battle, David tells Michal of Saul’s anger, treachery and attempt to kill him. Michal urges him to escape. Doeg, Saul’s messenger, arrives to arrest David, but David once again escapes. Merab, who has softened toward David, expresses her fear for his safety and her faith that Jonathan will save him. At the Feast of the New Moon, Saul declares his intention to destroy David. He questions Jonathan about David’s absence and reproaches him siding with his enemy. When Jonathan defends David, Saul flies into a rage and attempts to murder his own son. The Israelites warn of the dire consequences of Saul’s anger.
In disguise, Saul goes to consult the Witch of Endor, whose magic he had previously outlawed. The Witch complies with Saul’s request to conjure the ghost of Samuel. The ghost of Samuel tells Saul that Israel will be defeated by the Philistines, and Saul and his sons killed, after which the kingdom will pass to David. After the battle, David questions an Amalekite about its outcome and learns of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan and the defeat of the Israelites. The Israelites, David and Merab mourn the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. The High Priest urges the Israelites to celebrate the return of David, and the people extol David and entreat him to lead them into battle and redress the defeat of their nation.