“Flavio Testi’s Saül is the brow-creasing tale of the biblical King Saul’s decline and demise, and the eventual rise of King David — a subject that has received several operatic treatments, in this case based on the work of André Gide. Saül, in decline and suffering demonic visitations, is eventually supplanted by the young shepherd David, who is brought to the palace to sooth Saül with his harp.
Saül is an uncompromising score: unmelodic, thorny, and percussive. But with the text in hand, Testi’s drama is engaging, even gripping, and his musical choices seem organic to the mirthless libretto. Very few moments announce themselves as purely musical. Instead, there is a seamless scenic flow that draws the ear to the inflection of the text and vocal line; it is an intense dramatic experience, if not a musically pleasant one. That Saül is a troubled king, both in his rule and his demonically haunted inner life, is clear from his every utterance; he is graceless and prone to violent shifts of mood . . . Conductor Massimo Zanetti deserves enormous credit for holding this live performance together; the sense of flow and continuity is impressive, as is his attention to orchestral detail.” -AllMusic