We round up the reviews for Oliver Mears’s production of Handel’s oratorio.
Broadway World: **** “AllanClayton’s effortless vocal muscularity is once again on full show as he returns to Covent Garden to play the title role. Handel’s music promises less psychological meat on the bone for him to chew on than his previous outing as Peter Grimes. But Clayton’s Jephtha, Jennifer France’s velvet voiced Iphis, and the rest of the superb supporting cast and chorus, never fail to find concrete weight in each note alongside Laurence Cummings’ intricately skilful conducting.”
The Guardian: *** “The hardworking chorus sings with conviction if not the stylistic assurance of a baroque specialist group; the mainly modern-instrument orchestra is at times in danger of covering it. Laurence Cummings conducts with a propulsion that sometimes edges into relentlessness, all of a piece with this flawed yet powerful staging.”
Evening Standard: **** “Brindley Sherratt, though now an accomplished Wagnerian, is far more successful as Zebul. But it is Jennifer France as Iphis and the countertenor Cameron Shahbazi as her sorely tested lover Hamor that offer the most stylish Handel singing.”
The Telegraph: **** “The work was never meant to be staged, but Oliver Mears’s excellently sung production for the Royal Opera makes a strong case for doing so.”
Bachtrack.com: *** “This production will satisfy Handel aficionados for its basic attractiveness and the sheer quality of its cast, but it’s hard to see this as a successful conversion of an oratorio into a dramatic work. Unlike last year’s Alcina, I doubt that it will make any converts to the Handelian cause.”
Culture Whisper: **** “A truly wonderful performance by France is the lasting gift of this production. Constantly dressed and redressed for each new role she must play in the unfolding drama, she imbues the single word ‘adorn’ with a whole wardrobe of colour.”
London Unattached: “With some arresting imagery, fabulous singing and powerful characterisations Mears has created a Jephtha for our age with its own internal logic and an inexorable tightening of the dramatic tension as the outcome of Jephtha’s vainglorious deal with God plays out. “
The Stage: *** “Strong and musically distinguished performances lift Handel’s 1752 opera.”
iNews: *** Yet there are good reasons to see this show: Jennifer France for her exquisite incarnation of an ingénue self-transformed into a tragic victim on a funeral pyre, and Allan Clayton for his commanding Jephtha, whose descent into madness becomes a tour de force. And a big hand to 13-year-old Ivo Clark as the Angel for negotiating a difficult, high solo with perfect intonation – a remarkable feat for a treble.”
MusicOMH: *** “Musically, the production was a curate’s egg. Under Laurence Cummings, an experienced interpreter of Baroque music, the Covent Garden band of (mostly) modern instruments delivered some crisp, mannered and ‘authentic’ sounding accounts.”
Jephtha continues to play at the Royal Opera House until the 24th November.