Southbank Sinfonia - Handel's Messiah

The Bristol Proms' very own spectacular Last Night of the Proms, concludes with Bristol Old Vic Artistic Director Tom Morris's rousing, semi-staged performance of Handel's inimitable Messiah, alongside Southbank Sinfonia, soloists Neal Davies, Catherine Wyn Rogers, Andrew Tortise and Caroline MacPhie, an accompanying choir and performers from the Young Company and beyond.


Neal Davies answers our questions:

How is your Bristol Proms concert different to any normal concert?
My Bristol Proms performance is a staging of Handel's Messiah - a first for me, even though I have sung the piece in well over a hundred performances. Although never conceived as a stage work, we must remember that Handel was the greatest opera composer of his age and a true man of the theatre. Everything he wrote for the human voice is steeped in drama and action, even when intended for a static Oratorio performance. I can't wait to see how Tom Morris will interpret this when given the freedom of a stage, singers and actors!

Tickets for these concerts are available for as little as £5 to make them as accessible as possible - is elitism a problem for classical music?
Where do I start answering this question! I think the fact that tickets are priced from £5 is marvellous, thanks no doubt to generous sponsor. Classical music IS an expensive art form and always has been. The sheer number of people involved in your average opera performance can run into the hundreds and they all have to be paid by somebody. Classical music has to be something that is valued by the listening public and has to be made accessible from an early age in order to de-mystify it. Let's hope these Bristol Proms bring in a new eager audience who come with open minds and ears!

Will you be sticking around for any other concerts during the week? Who are you looking forward to seeing?
I live just outside Wells in Somerset, so Bristol is on my doorstep. I will certainly try to hear Daniel Hope and Jan Lisiecki who are both extraordinary players.

Is this the way forward for 'classical' concerts? Does the classical music world need to change the way it presents itself?
I think it is a way forward for classical music. What is so wonderful today is that there isn't only one way of enjoying great music. If the quality of the music and the performances is high enough then it doesn't really matter where or how you experience it. Sometimes it's nice to get dressed up and go to Covent Garden, other times an impromptu performance in a neighbour's barn is equally wonderful. I think it's so sad when classical music is parodied as fat tenors in tail suits and women with horns singing Wagner. 99% of the time we perform to perfectly ordinary people who make time after work to turn up at the Southbank or Barbican to escape from the daily grind and the daily commute to be transported by music of the highest quality. Unfortunately the perception in the popular press is that classical music is the preserve of some sort of elite, when the reality couldn't be more different.

What's been the strangest concert you've ever performed?
The world of opera is weird and wonderful. I made my Royal Opera debut wearing a leather jockstrap, horns and four-inch heels!