Israel in Egypt HWV 54 – Zeit und Spielstätte geändert!


NDR Vokalensemble © Marius Engels | NDR
7:30 pm | May 17th, 2024 | ~ 2,5 h
Neustädter Hof- und Stadtkirche, Hannover

The history of the people of Israel is a story of refugees: the second book of the of the Tanakh and Old Testament begins with the “Exodus”, the exodus from Egypt. There is no historical basis for this, but it is a fact that in the times of the Pharaohs, Afro-Asian nomads, Semites, were forced to labour on gigantic construction projects and some of them managed to escape from Egypt in small groups. The biblical rescue is carried out by Moses, who leads the fleeing people through the Reed Sea and the desert to mountainous Canaan – the area promised to the Israelites as a settlement area by their God YHWH.

When George Frideric Handel set to work on the material in 1738, the Kingdom of Great Britain under George II was in the process of expanding its colonies by means of slave labour. Handel’s adopted country was then in competition with the loathed country of Spain, from which it was soon to wrest the rank of world power. The oratorio Israel in Egypt, however, does not harbour any criticism of the British colonial style. On the contrary, Handel was trying to capture the spirit of the times: the English regarded themselves as the chosen people – Aaron, Sarah and Abraham were their most popular baptismal names at the time. In the role they assumed for themselves, they were able to assign an innocuous place to the imperialist gesture of their politics.

Thus, with this subject, Handel was in tune with the times – but musically, he challenged the audience. The powerful sounds, the dramatic descriptions of the chorus never fail to make an impact, even today. In the first part, which followed the funeral ode for Queen Caroline at the time, Handel musically unleashes the ten biblical plagues that befall Egypt because the Pharaoh will not release the slaves: the hail chorus surges through the hall with bombastic triads, the buzzing of the violins during the mosquito chorus almost makes listeners want to swat the bugs off their faces, and the tympani roll pulls listeners into its wake like the roaring sea draws the Egyptian persecutors.

Polluted water, insect plagues, epidemics, climate catastrophes, even death ... It’s astounding that exploitation and oppression continue to take the same toll today - without any divine revenge. Will brave refugees one day triumph in choral cascades and flourish in the glory of trumpets, just like in Handel’s work?

Work of Georg Friedrich Händel

Intermission after the second part.

Tickets via:
Tickets NDR Vokalensemble "Israel in Egypt" | NDR Ticketshop

Ruby Hughes Soprano
Lucy De Butts Soprano
Maarten Engeltjes Countertenor
Fabio Trümpy Tenor
Dávid Csizmár Bass
Andreas Pruys Bass

NDR Vokalensemble

FestspielOrchester Göttingen

Klaas Stok Musical Director

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