Faramondo (1737): George Frideric Handel

Handel: Faramondo

★★★

(Britten Theatre, 25 March 2017)

You can’t accuse Handel of not being productive. He wrote Faramondo while recovering from a stroke and, having finished it on Christmas Eve, began his next opera on Boxing Day. That would become Xerxes, one of his most enduringly popular scores, but Faramondo itself has never enjoyed the same acclaim as its younger sibling. There are perfectly good reasons for this, namely that the opera itself is a bit of a mess, but the students of the Royal College of Music have gamely taken up the gauntlet in this staged production, performed as part of the London Handel Festival. They’re accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra, with Laurence Cummings directing from the harpsichord; I also spotted Leo Duarte tucked in at the back with his trusty oboe.

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Adriano in Siria: Johann Christian Bach (1765)

Bach: Adriano in Siria

★★★★

(Classical Opera, conducted by Ian Page, Britten Theatre, 18 April 2015)

As Hadrian is one of my historical favourites, I was amused to discover that he’s the subject of a Metastasio libretto, set to music by more than sixty composers between 1732 and 1828. Classical Opera’s production is, rather remarkably, the first staging of the version by J.C. Bach (son of the Bach) since it opened in London in 1765. It’s been making waves in the press: the dominant reaction is amazement that we don’t hear more of J.C., especially since he spent most of his career in London* and was much admired.

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Giove in Argo: George Frideric Handel (1739)

Giove in Argo

★★★½

(Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, 26 March 2015)

The final event of this year’s London Handel Festival for me was this staged version of the pasticcio opera Giove in Argo. Although Catone in Utica was also a pasticcio, the two differ because Giove is made up of arias and choruses from Handel’s own earlier operas rather than those of other composers. (However, as I’m still very much a Handel beginner, most of them felt new anyway!) It dates from 1739, the year after Xerxes, and represents one of Handel’s very last forays into Italian-language productions in London.

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