Michael White’s classical news: Acis & Galeta; Jonas Kaufmann, Diana Damrau; St John Passion

Friday, 25th March — By Michael White

Jonas Kaufmann and Diana Damrau_Credit Gregor Hohenberg, Jiyang Chen

Jonas Kaufmann and Diana Damrau, Barbican March 29. Photos: Gregor Hohenberg / Jiyang Chen

IN front of Hampstead Parish Church stands an impressive set of wrought-iron gates too grand (you might think) for their context. But that’s because they originally stood in front of one of the great houses of north London: a palatial pile called Canons that was the seat of the Duke of Chandos and sometime home of the composer Handel, who served time as a resident musician in the duke’s household.

Not much of Canons survives except those gates and good deal of rumour (because the duke’s household was by all accounts covertly gay: one of assorted bits of circumstantial evidence that suggest Handel himself may have been gay). But also surviving is the music Handel wrote at Canons. And it includes a pastoral opera, Acis and Galatea, that gets an intimate staging next week as part of the London Handel Festival.

Adapted and revised by Handel several times during his life, Acis is a tragi-comic love story concerning two rivals for the affection of a beautiful nymph. It ends badly when one of them (who happens to be a giant and therefore has a certain size advantage) kills the other. And from the sound of things, this LHF production takes it all very seriously.

Either way, there’s a highly credible team of creatives and performers involved in this show, led by David Bates and his La Nuova Musica company. It runs March 31-April 2 in the darkly atmospheric venue Stone Nest (built as a church, turned into a night club) Chinatown, 136 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 5EZ. Details: london-handel-festival.com

• It’s a two-for-one deal at the Barbican on March 29 when the same recital brings you the world’s leading lyric tenor, Jonas Kaufmann, and one of the world’s leading sopranos, Diana Damrau, together in concert. They’re singing songs by Brahms and Schumann, accompanied by star collaborative pianist Helmuth Deutsch (so that’s three-for-one really). A hot ticket. barbican.org.uk

• Another leading tenor, Mark Padmore, has developed the interesting sideline of directing ensembles that accompany his singing; and he does it this weekend in a Bach St John Passion that features him as both soloist and director with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Other participants include the always-fabulous soprano Mary Bevan. March 26, Queen Elizabeth Hall. southbankcentre.co.uk

• Gratitude is an emotion high on the agenda of the mindfulness industry these days, so don’t hold back from Islington Choral Society’s concert at St Andrew’s Holborn which promises a programme of “grateful” music by Purcell, Handel and Bach. It turns out to be Coronation Anthems and the like, but guaranteed uplifting to the soul. March 26. trybooking.co.uk/BMGD

• If nothing else, the invasion of Ukraine has revealed how many musicians active in London are of Ukrainian origin. Among them is Oleg Kogan, who runs the excellent Razumovsky Academy in Kensal Green (a fine performance space if you haven’t yet discovered it). And he’s organising a Help Ukraine fundraiser on April 24 that I’ll write about nearer the time but wanted to flag in advance as a date for the diary. It can only be worthwhile. Details: razumovsky.co.uk

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