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December 2003
Theodora (Handel) - Glyndebourne on Tour - The New Theatre
Theodora
Theodora
Simon Tavener reviews the Theodra at The New Theatre.
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By Simon Tavener

Bringing an oratorio to life as a vivid piece of stage drama is a rare achievement, particularly when the action is somewhat sporadic and the story obscure. This revival of Theodora is a triumph which shows not only the mastery of Handel as a composer but also the skill of Peter Sellars in his recreation of this neglected work as a vibrant and moving evening.

It is a test of the quality of a company when they are forced, due to illness, to announce the use of an understudy for a lead role. The title role was taken by Vanessa Woodfine rather than the previously announced Anne-Lise Sollied. The demands placed on the singers in this production are intense - not only does the music require perfect technique and delicate control, the movements are very carefully choreographed and integrated fully into the action. Vanessa Woodfine stepped seemlessly into the role and sang with clarity, purity and sincere emotion.

Christine Rise (Irene) was the most accomplished of the performers on the stage. She was ardent, passionate yet tender and concerned. She commanded the audience's attention and guided the performance musically and emotionally.

The other main principals were also impressive - Stephen Wallace, Henry Waddington and Paul Nilon. They were clearly up to the technical and dramatic challenges placed before them.

Special praise must go to the Chorus. As ever they were the backbone of the performance. Very much at home with the stylised movements demanded by the production, they sang with their usual flair, compassion and control.

It was a privilege to see this revival as it is a demonstration that combining a strong musical performance with a production that is consistently thought-through can bring memorable results.

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