The annual production by members of the Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme gives the scheme’s current intake a chance to show what they can do.
This year the vehicle is a Handel oratorio first performed at Covent Garden in 1749 – one of a substantial series of works by the Baroque composer premiered at the theatre. Its belated revival benefits from the playing of the London Handel Orchestra, while conductor Patrick Milne consistently energises the score.
Because of a long-term ban on the representation of Biblical personages on the stage, Handel’s oratorios were conceived as concert pieces, and inevitably present problems when staged – not all of them solved in Isabelle Kettle’s production.
The sudden arrival of the members of the Royal Opera Chorus to offer sententious moralising tends to put a dampener on proceedings, while their actual words are often indecipherable (for some reason there are no surtitles); nor does the transfer of the action to a modern Cornish fishing community make any real sense.
But Kettle and the performers manage the visualisation of the tricky elements of a narrative in which the innocent Susanna is accused of adultery by two lustful elders until she is eventually vindicated by the prophet Daniel with a rare combination of power and delicacy.
All of the participants have plenty to offer, though some are more accomplished than others: especially notable are Michael Mofidian’s firm Chelsias, Blaise Malaba’s menacing Second Elder, and especially Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha’s confident Susanna: her rich, creamy lyric soprano will take her far.