Handel's first Oratorio. Esther has a simple story plot. Very, very simple. Jewish folk are real excited because their Queen Esther has been made queen to the Persian king, Ahasuerus. No sooner than they are married, the king's high priest proclaims that all Jews must be put to death. The first few scenes go back and forth between Jewish and Persian camps declaring destruction of the other team. Finally Esther goes to see her husband. Overcome with her beauty, he tells her that the decree wasn't meant to include her. She tells husband that destroying her people is to destroy her. Husband sees the error of his ways, and drags the high priest in for an accounting of ways. He apologizes profusely, but Esther sees through his alligator tears, he's executed, and everyone stands around singing praises to Jehovah God. The end. In Seven scenes, the whole oratorio clocks in at 1 hour and 37 minutes flat.
Though quite popular throughout Handel's career, and composed at a time when public taste was shifting from Italian to English, this is a tad dull compared to his later works. David Thomas (baritone) sings the part of the King of Persia's high priest Haman. Emma Kirkby sings the Israelite woman, Patricia Kwella sings the part of Queen Esther, and Anthony Rolfe Johnson performs the Persian King. Everyone sings to perfection, but you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip. The sound engineering, however, is excquisite. Everything is clear and images quite well.
Like an early Mozart opera compared to a Magic Flute or a Figaro, it is a real joy to listen to, but no "Israel in Egypt" or "Messiah." But soloists and orchestra are perfection. Unlike the other works, the real star of this recording is Hogwood and his delicate interpretation of the material. Every syllable of each solo and chorus is perfectly understandable, so much you barely need to reference a libretto. This is a pleasant piece of Baroque singing to add to your collection, but there is nothing here that is inspiring, particularly interesting from a story perspective, or engaging musically. Hogwood breathed as much life as could be expected. Not one of Handel's best efforts by far.
Available as part of a 4 oratorio set of Hogwood gems. Handel: Messiah / Athalia / Esther / La Resurrezione