Handel the Anti-Semite - Samson cast as a suicide bomber

In Canada an avant garde production of Handel's Samson stirs a lengthy review-essay questioning the limits of the interpretation of music.
Samson as Suicide Bomber
Shaky premise for art.
Victoria choir cast the Hebrew icon as a terrorist. This helps?
By Terry Glavin

The Victoria Philharmonic Choir delivered a spirited, rich and lush performance of Simon Capet's provocative interpretation of Handel's Samson Thursday night, and the evening concluded with a hearty and well-deserved standing ovation. The orchestra acquitted itself splendidly. Lead tenor Ken Lavigne, in the role of Samson, was spellbinding. Everything went off without a hitch.

The only evidence that there had been anything unusual about the event was the Victoria Police squad car that had been parked in front of the McPherson Theatre when the doors opened. And later, when the audience filtered back out onto Pandora Street, there was a local television news crew on hand.

Still, in the comfortable, ornate, and almost antique setting of the McPherson Playhouse, just three blocks from the oldest synagogue in Canada, in the middle of Passover, there were some of us in the audience who could not help but notice that what we were watching onstage was something more than just vaguely obscene.

You have to hand it to Capet, the Victoria Philharmonic's new artistic director. He's managed to do something with the story of the mythical Hebrew superman that nobody has ever attempted.

Samson has shown up in 1960s-era Italian muscleman movies, in Grateful Dead lyrics, in Christian bedtime stories, and in Marvel comic books. Peter Paul Rubens painted him. Michelangelo sculpted him. And since September 11, 2001, there has also been a great deal of highbrow hand-wringing in literary-criticism circles about how the Samson story must now be read, in light of everything that has happened.

But until Capet, nobody had figured out a way to use the Samson story to so completely turn things upside down as to reconstruct an important work of art to portray a Jew as a suicide bomber....[much more]

Back in the States the NY Times discovers in some impressive technical detail that Handel's Messiah was meant to celebrate the misfortunes of Jews. Handel’s Messiah - Music - New York Times: "Unsettling History of That Joyous ‘Hallelujah’"
... “Messiah” lovers may be surprised to learn that the work was meant not for Christmas but for Lent, and that the “Hallelujah” chorus was designed not to honor the birth or resurrection of Jesus but to celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in A.D. 70. For most Christians in Handel’s day, this horrible event was construed as divine retribution on Judaism for its failure to accept Jesus as God’s promised Messiah.

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