Hide thou thy hated beams, o sun, in clouds and darkness, deep as is a father's woe
- Jephtha, Acte III, scène 1
When Jephthah, a biblical parable adapted from the Book of Judges, begins, the people of Israel are under the yoke of neighbouring nations which pillage and oppress them. Jephthah, destined to become their saviour, has grown up in the desert until becoming a powerful military leader. On leaving for battle, he swears to the god Jehovah that he will sacrifice the first person he meets on his way home. Alas, as he returns victorious, it is Iphis, his only daughter, who comes to meet him… Claus Guth directs this oratorio in which grief‑stricken voices interweave as they confront an apocalyptic situation. The drama seems to lead to a tragic denouement,
in accordance with Handel’s injunction: “It must be thus”. But must it really be thus?