Conductor Peter Neumann and the MDG label of Germany have created a sonically beautiful recording and a very pleasing word-book for this CD. "Saul," first performed in 1735 in London's Covent Garden theater, is a milestone in musical drama. Handel obviously welcomed the opportunity to work in the oratorio format as opposed to the rigidly formal opera seria; he experimented with many new forms and effects during the fast moving two and one half hours of "Saul."
Arias that end in attempted murder, a murder during an aria, a giant's head carried in to joyful music, a witch and a dead man speaking, a duet that ends midstream when one of the characters flees - these are just a few of the things going on in "Saul." Noted Handelian Winton Dean stated "the amount of action that takes place while the music is in full flow (and not merely during the recitative) is astonishing when compared to contemporary operatic practice."
The performance is first rate, although it is a bit disturbing at times to hear the English text performed by a German chorus. Both Gregory Reinhart as Saul, and John Elwes as Jonathan turn in excellent performances while vividly developing the madness of King Saul. Vasilika Jezovsek and Simone Kermes easily fulfill their duties as the royal sisters Michal and Merab.
This performance uses the score and libretto that Handel revised for the 1738 performance in the Haymarket. It includes the Carillon and Harp Sinfonias as well as all airs for the High Priest. The set includes a complete libretto and notes. I highly recommend this CD.