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October 3, 2022

Sibiu Opera Festival kicks off

Sibiu State Philharmonic hosts the only opera festival in the country, until October 4; Sibiu Opera Festival. Over 500 artists will visit Sibiu for the twelve events included in the program of this project. The event is produced with financial support by the County Council of Sibiu. The action is co-financed by the Local Council of Sibiu and the Mayoralty of Sibiu.
The opening of the 14th edition of Sibiu Opera Festival, in the evening of September 20, was made by a vocal – symphonic concert of great amplitude. It included a performance in premiere in Sibiu of the oratorio “Israel in Egypt” by G. F. Handel. The work is a masterpiece of music baroque and was first performed in 1739, in London. Handel chose for his oratorio Biblical texts of the Old Testament. The text was excerpted from “Exodus” and from Psalms 105 – 106, and it describes the story of the exodus of the Israeli nation in Egypt.

This kind of oratorio, with its arias, recitatives and great choral ensembles still had a quite obvious influence of operas, as it was composed for entertainment and destined for being performed in a lay environment. Handel had authored a total number of nineteen oratorios in London theatres, that helped him gain back his popularity, both as an opera composer and as an oratorio composer. As the lead role of this legend is that of the Israeli people, Handel had created a special role to the double choir. With 28 choir parts totally, four arias, three duets and three short recitatives, “Israel in Egypt” may be described as a great choral oratorio, that holds a special place among Handel’s masterpieces.

This Handel project was produced in Romanian – Swiss artistic partnership. The Sibiu State Philharmonic was invited to perform in Switzerland, along the two Swiss Choirs, Cantori Contenti Zug and Matthauskantorei Luzern, the first two performances of this oratorio, on September 12 and 13. For reciprocity, the Thalia Hall in Sibiu will host the third performance, and Swiss artists will tour Sibiu.

The performance is musically coordinated by American conductor Stephen Smith, thoroughly involved in the spiritual repertoire of Renaissance and Baroque, while also showing keen interest in contemporary music. Since 1982, Smith has been living in Switzerland, and is a nationally and internationally acknowledged conductor and organist.
The soloists of the oratorio are guest artists from Switzerland and members of the two choirs: sopranos Gabriela Burgler and Pauline Persoud, alto Carmen Wursch, tenor Eelke van Koot and basses Richard Helm and Christian Meier.

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