Beauty in many forms: the Göttingen International Handel Festival 2024

Göttingen, January 30, 2024

The Göttingen International Handel Festival reassembles early music

KALEIDOSCOPE: This year's Göttingen International Handel Festival taking place from May 9 to 20 focuses on the diversity and beauty of music and the world at large. The best way to do this, of course, is with a rich and varied program. An all-new opera pastiche of unknown, once-discarded works by Handel, three Handel oratorios, fourteen chamber concerts, and a colourful family program all deliver on that promise. Stars of the early music scene from all over the world are coming to Göttingen and the region. Artistic Director George Petrou and Managing Director Jochen Schäfsmeier presented their plans for the Handel Festival 2024 to the public today. Advance tickets go on sale to the public on February 9, and the program and full details can be found at

The Göttingen Festival has been bringing Handel to the people for over a hundred years. It's hard to imagine: before the so-called Göttingen Handel Renaissance, the composer's Baroque stage works were all but forgotten worldwide. For this year's Festival, George Petrou is paying special tribute to this legacy with his and director Laurence Dale's arrangement of Sarrasine, an opera of virtuosic but largely unknown Handel pieces. Pieces that have long been published on paper but never performed because the composer once discarded them for purely practical or dramaturgical reasons. “The Handel Renaissance is not a historical event,” Petrou explains his process, “but it can be a very personal, very intimate experience.” And so, even after all the Handel operas have already been performed, the Festival continues to rediscover the composer.

This makes this year's Göttingen Festival Opera a unique event for Handel fans. Sarrasine, based on a novella by Honoré de Balzac, has become a love letter to opera itself – and to its stars. The leading role is sung by the outstanding soprano Samuel Mariño. Gender swapping on the opera stage? Perfectly normal in the 18th century! A romantic tale, a pastiche of Baroque tradition and the seductive music of George Frideric Handel raise questions about identity and sexuality that could not be more relevant. The premiere takes place on May 10.

The oratorios are no less topical. In the opening concert, Deborah (HWV 51) on April 13, 2024, the most important female figure in the Tanakh calls for social responsibility. The NDR Radiophilharmonie will perform under the direction of former Festival Artistic Director Nicholas McGegan. Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (HWV 46a) on May 9, 2024, raises questions about beauty and transience, brought into the present and into the very present by concert designer Folkert Uhde. George Petrou conducts the Göttingen FestspielOrchester. Israel in Egypt (HWV 54) on May 18, 2024, is in turn a story of resistance and repression. The highly dramatic choruses are sung by the NDR Vokalensemble under the direction of Klaas Stok.

For even more beauty and diversity, the Göttingen Festival has invited internationally acclaimed singers to Göttingen, such as Andrew Foster-Williams, Emőke Baráth and Xavier Sabata and for the chamber concerts, such luminaries as Erik Bosgraaf, Dorothee Oberlinger, Shunske Sato and Pierre Hantaï, ARD prizewinner Lutz Koppetsch and the Echo Klassik prizewinner NeoBarock. Göttingen audiences and fans of the Festival will also get to meet old acquaintances: in addition to McGegan and Dale, there will be singers Franziska Gottwald, Ruby Hughes, Myrsini Margariti and tenor Juan Sancho for opera and oratorios, as well as Franziska Fleischanderl and the Ensemble Masques for the chamber concerts. The ensembles Barock_Plus, Duo Agion and the Chaconne Ensemble are former participants of the göttingen händel competition, which again this year will honour young talents in the field of early music.

But “great music doesn't just come from the work and its performers,” says Managing Director Schäfsmeier, “it draws its cultural and social power from encounters through art.” That is why this year's Festival is striving to reach out even further beyond Göttingen and into the region, why social networking and the educational program “Händel 4 Kids!” have been further developed, why there are numerous free “meet and greet” events and why after ten of the chamber concerts there will be a convivial Meet The Artist. In addition to the collaboration with the NDR, the Deutsches Theater Göttingen will also play a new artistic role in the opera, and the Georg August University will provide academic and even vocal support – just as it did when the Festival was founded one hundred years ago. And George Petrou will make his debut as conductor of the Göttinger Symphonieorchester.

The shareholders of the Göttingen International Handel Festival include the Stiftung Internationale Händel-Festspiele Göttingen, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Göttinger Händel-Gesellschaft, with over 800 members, the city of Göttingen and the district of Göttingen. Supporters include the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, as well as numerous other donors, sponsors, partners and friends of the Festival. “It is inspiring to see how many people are so enthusiastic about Handel and the Festival,” says Susanne Heller, vice chair of the Göttinger Händel-Gesellschaft, “truly, because their influence is directly reflected in the Festival. No thanks are enough, but that's all the more reason for the Festival.”

The Göttingen International Handel Festival 2024: May 9-20 in Adelebsen, Bad Lauterberg, Duderstadt, Einbeck, Hann. Münden, Herzberg, Northeim – and in Göttingen. All information about the events, venues and, for example, accessibility issues can be found at Concert tickets are available online as well as at the Tourist Information, Markt 8, at the Deutsches Theater Göttingen, at TonKost, Jüdenstraße 31, and at all Eventim ticket offices throughout Germany. Göttingen students can attend all events free of charge with the Kulturticket, except for the opera premiere.