The English National Opera (ENO) has returned to rehearsals for a special production of Handel’s Messiah to be recorded at the London Coliseum for TV audiences at home.
Members of the ENO are part of a rapid screening programme, using government-supplied lateral flow tests, which is run in-house at the theatre, while rehearsals are all socially distanced.
The hour-long performance of Handel’s masterpiece will be filmed with no live audience present, and singers, chorus and orchestra will be 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. It will be broadcast on BBC Two on April 3, the day before Easter Sunday.
Composed in 1741, and premiered at Easter 1742, the piece speaks to the day’s celebration of hope and new beginnings.
The production will feature a cast of eight soloists, including mezzo-soprano Christine Rice and countertenor Iestyn Davies, who will be conducted by Handel expert Laurence Cummings.
It follows the ENO’s recent performance of Mozart’s Requiem, broadcast on BBC Two in November 2020
Annilese Miskimmon, artistic director of the ENO, 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.”
Martyn Brabbins, the ENO’s music director, added: “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.”