The story of Händel´s late (1750) oratorio "Theodora" in brief, is that of the Christian woman Theodora, who, persecuted by the Romans ultimately becomes a martyr for her faith with her lover Didymus.
With this staging, Christof Loy does not attempt to invite the audiences to identify with the characters but “exploring and experiencing the music and the works religious themes” in what he calls “almost like an installation” or a “performance process”. To achieve this, he lets the entire, massive stage of the Salzburg Festspielhaus depict the interior of a church and the staging unfolds as a rehearsal for a performance of Theodora. Not unlike his Frau Ohne Schatten from last years Salzburg Festival. But significantly more successful, though at times the singers almost seems to drown at the massive stage..
For me the real stand-outs in the cast were Joseph Kaiser´s dignified Septimus (= a main with a troubled conscience), Johannes Martin Krängle´s very believable Valens (=the villain). and Bernarda Fink´s wonderfully dignified Irene. For my tastes, Bejun Mehta´s Didymus is a tad too sentimental and feminine, and Christine Schäfer, despite dignified singing and great musician-ship, seems occasionally rather dry-voiced as Theodora.
However, the contrast of performing a small-sized baroque work in the massive Salzburg Festspielhaus is not at all interesting and most Händel admirers will love Ivor Bolton´s stylish performance with the Freiburger Barockorchester.
Despite not being created with a staged performance in mind, it is not, however the only Theodora on DVD and I must admit to vastly preferring Peter Sellars updated 1996 Glyndebourne production, infinitely more dynamic in addition to having the wonderful Lorraine Hunt as Irene.
Bejun Mehta and Christine Schäfer:
Christine Schäfer: 5
Bejun Mehta: 4
Bernarda Fink: 5
Joseph Kaiser: 5
Johannes Martin Krängle: 4
Ivor Bolton: 5
Overall impression: 4