Hard to believe that Alexander Balus has never been heard down under, until now that is.

Tobias Cole was in his mid-twenties when he conceived the magnificent idea of performing every one of Handel’s dramatic oratorios. “I love Handel’s music,” he says, “and I love the drama of the narratives. Then I realised that many of them hadn’t ever been performed in Australia.”

The fact that the oratorios are in English is another bonus. “Handel was a master composer of Italian opera, but changed to English-language oratorios to appeal to London audiences and reduce production costs,” says Cole. “That makes his oratorios perfect for our times. An intimate venue, top singers and musicians and dramatic lighting can turn these ‘concert’ works into a completely engaging audience experience—easy to understand, yet with the full range of operatic drama and emotional intensity.”

Cole took the job of Artistic Director of the Canberra Choral Society (CCS) in 2011, and put forward the ambitious, long-term project. “The committee was intrigued by the idea of presenting something new, that hadn’t been seen before,” he says.

Tobias Cole

Their willingness to take...