English National Opera (ENO) returns to the London Coliseum for a specially-created concert of Handel’s Messiah, recorded for exclusive broadcast on BBC Two on Saturday 3 April.
The hour-long performance of Handel’s much-loved masterpiece has been imaginatively staged at the London Coliseum, and filmed specifically for a television audience. With no live audience present, the performance is brought to life by the creative teams of the English National Opera, and performed by guest soloists and the ENO Chorus and Orchestra, making imaginative use of the stunning auditorium at the Coliseum. It is presented by saxophonist and broadcaster YolanDa Brown and broadcaster Petroc Trelawny.
Handel’s Messiah follows the success of ENO’s recent partnership with the BBC to bring audiences at home an acclaimed performance of Mozart’s Requiem, broadcast on BBC Two in November 2020. Singers, Chorus and Orchestra are socially distanced across the stage and auditorium and filmed in strict compliance with all relevant health and safety guidelines.
Featuring some of Handel’s best-known music – including the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus – Messiah tells the story of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. Composed in 1741, and premiered at Easter 1742 the piece speaks to the holiday’s celebration of hope and new beginnings.
ENO returns to the custom of performances in Handel’s lifetime, using a broader spectrum of solo voices than the usual four, featuring instead a bigger cast of eight outstanding soloists. Established, celebrated stars of the operatic world such as mezzo-soprano Christine Rice and countertenor Iestyn Davies, join the exciting new talents of current and former ENO Harewood Artists (sopranos Nadine Benjamin and Nardus Williams, tenors Anthony Gregory and John Findon, baritone Benson Wilson and bass William Thomas) to perform this popular piece.
ENO Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon said: ‘Returning to the London Coliseum, the first time since performing the haunting Mozart’s Requiem in November, will be hugely emotional for us as a company. Handel’s beautiful music transcends the specifics of its biblical text in embracing the possibility of hope and rebirth after the darkest of times.’
ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins said: ‘Handel’s Messiah remains one of the true glories of musical creation, and a cornerstone of the repertoire of orchestras, choruses and solo singers throughout the world. Now approaching its 300th birthday, Messiah contains some of the most memorable and moving music from the Baroque era. This performance is sure to bring joy and happiness to all who experience it.’
ENO’s CEO Stuart Murphy said: ‘It’s been so important to us to keep performing for audiences during lockdown, in whatever way we can, so we are very grateful to the BBC for helping us fulfil this mission once again. Music and art have got many of us through this period of consternation, so we hope people love this latest ENO performance.’
Head of BBC Music TV Commissioning, Jan Younghusband, said: ‘We are delighted to be working with ENO again to create a performance in their theatre and for television. Whilst it is not possible to have live audiences in theatres, concert halls and opera houses at the moment, it is even more important to deliver music performance for our audiences on television, and bring great artistry to music fans locked down at home.’
Members of the award winning ENO Chorus and Orchestra are conducted by Handel expert Laurence Cummings, and joined by eight acclaimed soloists.
A noted authority on Handel, Laurence Cummings ‘now ranks as one of the composer’s best advocates in the world… he matches Handel’s energy and invention with unmistakable lyricism, generosity and dignity’ (the Guardian). Laurence conducts a stellar lineup of some of opera’s most exciting talent.
Nardus Williams joins the lineup after singing the shared role of Mimi in ENO Drive & Live: La bohème – the world’s first fully staged drive-in opera – in September 2020 at Alexandra Palace. Dubbed ‘one to listen out for’ on the basis of her ‘creamy’ voiced (the Guardian) ENO debut as Micaëla in Carmen, Nardus is a current ENO Harewood Artist.
Bringing her vocal prowess back to the London Coliseum, British soprano and former Harewood Artist Nadine Benjamin lends her ‘rich, glowing voice’ (the Guardian) to the lineup. A versatile and charismatic artist, Nadine’s acclaim for roles such as Musetta in La bohème and her ‘gloriously sung’ (Evening Standard) Clara in Porgy and Bess make her an ENO favourite.
One of Britain’s leading mezzo-sopranos, Christine Rice is a regular performer at major European opera houses including the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne, Teatro Real, and Bayerische Staatsoper. Christine returns to the ENO following her role as Federica in 2020’s Luisa Miller.
Praised for his Handel roles at renowned opera houses like the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne, acclaimed British countertenor Iestyn Davies has previously recorded two versions of Messiah. He joins as a soloist, following ENO’s Rodelinda in 2014, where his Bertarido was hailed as ‘perfection’ (Daily Telegraph).
Possessing a ‘disquietingly beautiful’ (the Guardian) tenor, former Harewood Artist Anthony Gregory returns to the London Coliseum stage following 2019’s acclaimed Orphée. With an established international career, Anthony is renowned for his ‘lovely, warm tenor’ (Opera Now).
Current ENO Harewood Artist, tenor John Findon will also join this exciting lineup. John has recently sung roles at Glyndebourne and Garsington Opera, and returns to ENO following his house debut in January 2020 as Remendado in Carmen.
John is joined by another current ENO Harewood Artist, New Zealand-born Samoan baritone Benson Wilson. Benson recently made his house debut in ENO Drive & Live: La bohème as Schaunard, broadcast on Sky Arts.
Also marking his first performance at the London Coliseum is fellow Harewood Artist, British bass William Thomas. William made his ENO debut as a ‘captivating’ (the Guardian) Colline in ENO Drive & Live: La bohème.
Messiah from ENO was commissioned by Head of BBC Music TV Commissioning Jan Younghusband for BBC Two, and produced for television by BBC Studios Music and Entertainment Cardiff.
Messiah is broadcast on BBC Two on Saturday 3 April at 18.00 and will be available on iPlayer shortly afterwards.