Julius Caesar of Handel changed the life of George Petros
George Petro, you had to wait 2 years to get your first “real” Göttingen Handel Festival To be able to perform in front of the public in Göttingen – now is the time. I consider you very happy and satisfied with that?
George Petro: absolutely yes! Now is a good and happy time. If the festival had been earlier in the year, we would have had to start in the middle of the pandemic. The first festival under my administration is also the first that can be held under largely normal conditions; Without blanket covid restrictions.
The previous artistic directors were all British: John Elliot Gardiner, Nicholas McGegan, and Lawrence Cummings. With you, a kind of Brexit is announced and not only that: you also produce your own work, how can it have a positive effect on the music if it is directed directly by the director?
Petro: As a director, I am interested in the relationship between music and drama, and also with connections that are perhaps only recognizable at second glance. I like to take inspiration from the small details between the lines to create an image that fits in production. My directing concept has always been a very musical one. They are often inspired by the subtle qualities of the operatic material that I direct.
Your enthusiasm for Handel began with the operas of Xerxes and Julius Caesar – you’ve said over and over again that this opera changed your life. If you are now performing Julius Caesar in Göttingen, of all things, it has to be done with a very personal touch, right?
Petro: Musically, of course, yes. I dare say it. Certainly also in terms of staging, but my directorial work is one of many possible explanations. This time I chose to designate the Kaiser 1920. On the other hand, this is the founding year of the Göttingen Handel Festival. On the other hand, 1920 was the year of Egyptian mania across Europe. Think of Carter’s fossils, think of Tutankhamun. For me I felt like Handel’s baroque opera Julius Caesar was performing during this time.
Apart from the centenary of the festival, I invited Russian soprano Julia Lesneva to a concert. The title role of Caesar will be sung by Ukrainian counter-counter Gori Minenko. Does this opera also get a new reading of current events in world affairs?
Petro: No, I wouldn’t say that. Look, my last production was Mozart’s Idomeneo in Athens. Idomino is an anti-war opera. And although I did not intend to make a statement with her, the development of the war in Ukraine affected me and turned into an anti-military operation. It exhibited production of Julius Caesar in January in the Netherlands. Of course, he would have taken a completely different approach if it had only been created at the end of February, and it shows. This production is about the fight between good and evil in general and not about a real war.
Handel’s operas are often very political, even apart from these themes.
Petro: I think Handel was a very political figure in general. He was a businessman, you know. Handel was interested. He wasn’t one of those reclusive artists, he knew exactly what was on the minds of his fellow human beings. Despite the historical panoramas, his work Julius Caesar is not the most political. For example, I now bring operas to the theater as a kind of fast-paced adventure film. We create a veritable flood of images that will leave the audience wondering: what will happen next.