Another gift from the BBC Proms to the world – a new English text to Haydn's grand Creation. This must be the first baroque libretto created by text message and email. It was compiled by the conductor Paul McCreesh and Timothy Roberts, with input from singers, so it's specially kind for voice. The new words really do make a difference. At first, you don't notice as most remain the same. Then you realize that phrases are flowing more naturally, more in keeping with the music. Meaning, too, becomes more direct, like clear speech.
"Great swarms of insects" sings Raphael, on the 6th Day. It's more vivid than the prosaic "a host of insects". "The room with air with fowl is fill'd" becomes "the air is filled with feather'd fowl". Sing that to the German "Der Luft erfüllt das weiche Gelieder". It works! And you can "see" them flapping their wings and taking off.
The Creation is full of lively incident. How witty Haydn can be! When Gabriel sings about the nightingale and her "soft enchanting lays", the composer throws in decorative trills, like birdsong. Then when the Leviathan looms into view, dark winds boom solemnly like whale song. Rhythms bounce jauntily, like waves on the ocean.
It's good to hear the images revealed clearly, without a cloak of verbiage. This is vivacious, exuberant good fun, so Paul McCreesh conducts with a light touch. Adam and Eve keep their clothes on, but they sing with the innocence of nudity. The new words are much simpler. Instead of the formal, clumsy "and from obedience grows, my pride and happiness", Eve now sings "Oh, such obedience brings me joy and honour". She's a normal girl in love, not an automaton churning out cliches. This shows the value of the new text.
Very good performance, Rosemary Joshua, Mark Padmore, Neal Davies and the Gabrieli Consort, baroque specialists, with massed choirs, including from Wroclaw. Unusually, Adam and Eve are sung by young singers, Sophie Bevan and Peter Harvey, not the big names. This gives the delicate tracery of their duet more freshness, even though the singers aren't as polished as the stars. They're a "new creation" after all !
The duet's delicate tracery of "with thee, with thee" flutters merrily. Adam and Eve are like two butterflies in the sunshine. Of course we know what happens nexr in the Bible, but for a moment they dance in unsullied bliss.
Partenope on Sunday. Read about the ENO and Vienna productions by clicking on the Handel labels at right or scrolling down to the post below "BBC Proms 2009 starting this week" where the links are embedded.