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Barrie Kosky’s Saul to headline 2017 Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Festival

Former Adelaide Festival artistic director Barrie Kosky is set to return after more than two decades to present an acclaimed operatic work as the centrepiece of next year’s event.

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In the first official program announcement for 2017, festival co-artistic directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy revealed this morning that Kosky’s production of the Handel oratorio Saul will have an Australian exclusive season at the Festival Theatre from March 3-9.

Armfield and Healy describe the show as a masterpiece that showcases the director’s “virtuosic stagecraft, rich imaginative world and subversive humour”.

“When I saw this production there was absolutely no question in my mind that this had to be our centrepiece,” Healy said.

“The audience, we were like kids, we almost couldn’t believe what we were seeing… we were so full of excited delight at witnessing something so special, so extraordinary.”

Saul – which explores the King of Israel’s relationship with his eventual successor, David, and is said to have echoes of King Lear – premiered last year at the Glyndebourne Festival in Sussex, Britain.

It earned lavish praise from critics, who variously described as “utterly enthralling” “blazingly alive” and “ravishing”.

Melbourne-born Kosky said in a statement from Berlin, where he now lives, that he was looking forward to “a few warm, balmy nights on the Torrens at my favourite Arts Festival in the world”.

“I am thrilled after 21 years to be coming back to the Adelaide Festival with an opera production that means so much to me.”

The baroque nightmare world of Saul. Photo: Bill Cooper

The cast for the Adelaide season will comprise both international and Australian performers – including English baritone Christopher Purves as Saul and American counter-tenor Christopher Lowrey as David – alongside the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

Vivid costuming, set design and props convey a world both dreamy and nightmarish.

In a video interview filmed ahead of the Glyndebourne Festival season (watch below), Kosky said the story of Saul was one of the most dramatic from the Old Testament.

“There are scenes which are tender, there are scenes which are beautiful, there are scenes which are funny, there are scenes which are devastatingly sad, there are scenes which are grotesque – I think the audiences will have a roller-coaster of emotions, which is what I think you should feel like when you’ve been to the opera.”

Kosky directed the Adelaide Festival in 1996, at the age of 29. He has been artistic director of the Komische Oper Berlin since 2012.

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