The Handel Festival in Halle has been around for 100 years – Culture

For the Hallelujah of ‘Christ’, smartphones are up, many of Halle’s residents want to capture this moment. After all, above the many capes on the market square in Halle, you hear more than you see. Flags are waving, the mayor is happy that two years after getting rid of Corona, he can finally inaugurate the centenary of the Handel Festival. Appropriately, the Stadtsingechor sings the opening chorus of the hymn “I Have Suffered Too Much” composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. Only the man to whom all this applies looks stoically from the base of his memorial in the distance, perhaps to London, where he has lived permanently from 1712, composed a good portion of 42 operas and 25 orators and at last died to be buried in Westminster Abbey to become. The jacket extends somewhat awkwardly over the bulging abdomen, which the sculptor tried to hide in the spirit of the hero-worship of the nineteenth century. To this day, people in Halle like to meet “in the Handel” or, somewhat suggestively, “in the Handel under their skirts.”

Museum documents next door where Georg Friedrich Handel was born in 1685 and spent the first eighteen years of his life show what has happened there over the past 100 years: Upon opening in 1935, the Hitler Youth marched by setting fire to Imperial Trading City. In 1959, on the bicentenary of his death, the PNA brought wreaths. A similar excerpt from “Wochenschau” praises “the great humanist composer” and “folk teacher of great works” for “the fact that his art sustains a yearning for peace and happiness.”

The history of Handel’s reception in Germany is always the history of her political enlistment. As an object of prestige, the Handel Festival in the GDR has been “under increasing scrutiny,” says Clemens Birnbaum, festival director since 2009. With orators in particular, efforts have been made to suppress religious content and instead interpret it as part of class struggle. Choral scenes were read as “public items” and expressions of “the people”, which is why workers’ choirs were often incorporated into the festival.

But the Handel Festival has also brought coveted connections abroad, with bands from Handel’s second home in England making frequent visits to Halle. Just like many Handel fans from the Federal Republic who travel, then as now, further east than the Handel Festival in Göttingen, which happened just before that. After all, the sister festival in the former West was also founded by an art historian from Halle in 1920, which is why the 100th anniversary could have been celebrated there two years ago, but was postponed for a year due to Corona.

Here also congratulations tram and bicycle seat cover

However, Halle retains the authority of the city of birth, which city marketing does not allow. Already on the tram, carriers want “unforgettable experiences”. The composer looks out from behind black sunglasses, from which he shoots a rainbow strip, from beer mats, laptops, and even bicycle seat covers. It’s probably going to somehow make Handel’s rainbow look more diverse, for something you still have to claim today.

Handel wasn’t the only one who took his first (and only) church music lesson on Market Square, and later took his first job as an organist at Halle Cathedral. Before him composers such as Samuel Scheidt and Michael Praetorius worked here, and later Wilhelm Friedmann Bach was the music director of the Marktkirche for 18 years, with his father Johann Sebastian, as an expert, examining the organ. With the university (where Handel studied law for another year), Halle was also of outstanding importance as a location for the sciences, generating happy convergences between theory and practice.

In the Hallische Handel version, which has been in production since 1955, excellent musical works have already been performed in the East German era, even if the scholars were not allowed to travel and therefore could not yet see many of Handel’s autographs in London, for example. The close proximity to the release made it possible to experience Handel’s hitherto unknown works at the festival – such as this year’s premiere of the part “Fernando, Re di Castiglia”, an early version of the opera “Sausarme”.

The mayor was the first to jump for applause

However, performance in GDR times sometimes musically lags behind the scientific state of art, which was mainly due to the refusal to practice historical performance. The new, narrow occupation, which had always been customary in the West, contradicted the ideological assumption of “popular choirs”, with individual staff members even considered “counter-revolutionary”. Hannah John, who brought the Handel Festival through the tipping point as a director, cites another reason in the interview: “We didn’t often have the historical tools.”

However, the movement cannot be stopped. That’s only because John kept in close contact with the sister festival in Göttingen, where visitors often brought records. Individual members of Halle’s orchestra were allowed to travel to the workshops at the Innsbruck Early Music Festival, while conductor Christian Klotig in particular experimented with a new, slimmer sound at the Handel Festival. However, the last step was not taken until after the reunification with the founding of the Handel Festival Orchestra.

If you attend the opening premiere of this year’s Handel Festival, you will have the impression that some fresh stimulus from outside cannot hurt the orchestra. Less distinct internally, but rather creamy and sometimes sticky, which pierces under the wand of Christian Cornyn from the trench of the Halle Opera House, where Handel’s “Orlando” is in the program as it was a hundred years ago. The festival’s resident orchestra is miles from the brevity and range of influences that Wolfgang Katchner and the Kompanyet Berlin Luten bring to Handel’s “Ariodente” the next day. Walter Sutcliffe’s direction for “Orlando” also remains quite regional, precisely because he strives almost so hard for modernity.

It seems that Sutcliffe, director of Opera Halle, wants to tell something about the wealthy new geeks in the age of digital self-isolation. In any case, the madness of Handel’s hero is expressed in the fact that Orlando (Xavier Sabata) locks women in his basement and watches them with a video camera. Where Sutcliffe does not miss is a very voyeuristic look at the sopranos in high heels and bathing suits. But the people of Halle did not allow their trade to be withdrawn so easily. For the applause, the mayor jumped in the front row first to give a standing ovation. After all, Halle loves to be “under the skirt with Handel.”

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