Robert Wilson and Händel’s Messiah as a spiritual journey

“Beauty cannot be questioned: it has divine right of sovereignty”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray 

Play Messies


With Messiah we have a perfect example avant la lettre of stories of faith, healing and resurrection (titles such as Parsifal and Paulus will follow). This capolavoro by the “caro Sassone”, a contemporary of Bach and Vivaldi, has already earned him posterity. As Stefan Zweig explains, Händel was commissioned to write an oratorio on the resurrection to be delivered in just 24 days. A few months later, on 13 April 1742, Messiah would premier in Dublin. Händel died 17 years later, but not before he had heard his favourite score for the last time. 

The stage version, presented here by cult stage director Robert Wilson, arose from Salzburg’s Mozartwoche where it was performed in January 2020 and it is based on the German version of 1789, arranged by another genius: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Born three years before the maestro’s death, the young Mozart created this arrangement at the request of an important Freemason patron: Gottfried van Swieten who, enamoured of Händel’s oratorios, would also later work on the librettos of Joseph Haydn’s two oratorios from texts by John Milton: The Creation and The Seasons. 

As Robert Wilson explains, some view Händel’s Messiah from a Christian perspective, which is also why he raised objections when this sacred oratorio was presented on a theatre stage. “For me Messiah is not so much a religious work, but rather a kind of spiritual journey.” Fascinated by the structure of the composition and an architecture that grants him great creative freedom, Wilson occupies this grandiose, perhaps abstract, almost mathematical music that speaks of hope. The irreparable pressure our society exerts on its protagonist (Jesus) who, avoiding comfort, wants to transform a society and is cruelly tortured, punished and killed. 

A genius, at the heights of Palladio or Rembrandt, is born every 200 years. Thus, Mozart adapts the libretto to German, reorchestrates part of the original score and adds small illuminations; as if Van Gogh had repainted La Gioconda. Josep Pons and a bouquet of leading soloists offer us an exciting, precise and thrilling recital. 

With the support:





The Messiah

Libretto by Charles Jennens
World premiere: 13/04/1742 at the Great Music Hall in Dublin 

  • Approximate running time 2h 30min

Artistic profile

Stage director, set and lighting design
Robert Wilson
Co-stage director
Nicola Panzer
Costume design
Carlos J. Soto
Set design assistant
Stephanie Engeln
Lighting assistant
John Torres
Tomasz Jeziorski
Make-up and wigs
Manu Halligan
Konrad Kuhn
Musical director assistant
Oleguer Aymamí
Musical assistants
Véronique Werklé, Rodrigo de Vera, David-Huy Nguyen-Phong and Jaume Tribó
Production: Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg, Salzburger Festpiele, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées du Paris and Grand Théâtre de Genève


Chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu (Pablo Assante, director)
Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu
Josep Pons

March 2024

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14/03/2024 Thursday | 7pm

Lecture by Rosa Massagué, journalist and music critic, on Händel's Messiah. Event organized by the Amics del Liceu Association.

To register for this activity, you must get in touch with the Association: 93 317 73 78 –

Check HERE for other lectures on different titles.