John Mainwaring’s heroic narrative of a musician at whose feet people in all the places he worked readily threw themselves glosses over the fact that throughout his career Handel, as a foreigner, had to deal with the phenomenon of his linguistic, religious, cultural and aesthetic alterity and prove himself in these foreign environments. Whether it was the “new world” of opera in Hamburg, the versatile and diversified musical culture of the Italian cities, London with the musical life peculiar to it, fluctuating between the national (English) and international (Franco-Italian) idioms: in all these different milieus Handel had to re-adjust and try to find a way of reconciling everything that made him what he was with the foreignness with which he was confronted.
This was a challenge Handel shared with many European contemporaries, who since the end of the Thirty Years War had become far more internationally oriented. Closely bound up with this migration of musicians was the transfer of different kinds of musical notation, singing practice and playing styles into all kinds of cultural milieus, which triggered friction and conflict but also set in motion numerous phenomena of hybridisation.
The Handel Festival aims to help shed new light on the opportunities, as well as on the conflicts and challenges, that arose from the migratory movements of musicians and music in Europe in the period from 1650 to 1750, and at the same time resituate the specific figure of Handel in the context of these movements. In a further sense, this theme is also intended as a historical reflection on the current crisis in Europe, between the deliberate raising of barriers against migratory movements and the political will to integrate foreigners. International stars from abroad will once again be coming to Halle in 2018. Among them, we would like to name in particular the singers Joyce DiDonato, who in 2017 won the ECHO Klassik “Singer of the Year” award, Handel Prize Winner Magdalena Kožena, the French alto and conductor Nathalie Stutzmann, the young Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva and the globally sought-after countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic.
In staged and concert opera performances, audiences will be swept away to exotically foreign places such as Mount Parnassus (“Parnasso in festa”), the Jerusalem of the Crusaders (“Rinaldo”) and ancient Egypt (“Berenice”). Besides Baroque music, we will also be building bridges to other genres – to Irish music, for example, with Camerata Kilkenny, or to the music of the Mediterranean with the Turkish singer Nihan Devecioglu, to electronic music in the Baroque Lounges and to jazz and pop-rock music in Bridges to Classics. Here, too, are some exciting encounters with foreign music styles and genres.