When Pinchgut approached me about directing Athalia, I had just finished directing Theodorafor them and had the most extraordinary experience. I’m a big Handel fan anyway, but I didn’t know Athalia– I just like the idea of working with choruses. They are so amazing, the Cantillation group, and I guess the reason Pinchgut chose Athaliawas that it was very chorus-focused.

In preparing Athalia, I do listen to recordings but I generally start with the libretto, because the work is pretty arcane. I comb through it for how the characters reflect on themselves and talk about others, and look for clues in the da capoarias to understand what people are obsessing about. I also look for other sources of inspiration, because I’m not producing it in a vacuum, I’m producing it for a contemporary audience. The original Racine play that it’s based on, as well as Handel’s treatment of it, is quite difficult to enter into.

Lindy Hume, Handel, Athalia Director Lindy Hume. Photo © Lyndon Mechielsen

The challenge is that it’s not an opera, it’s an oratorio, so it’s about making the drama three-dimensional. I feel the...