Amadigi di Gaula (1715): George Frideric Handel

Dossi: Melissa

★★★★

(Opera Settecento at St George’s Hanover Square, 24 March 2018)

Opera Settecento’s contribution to this year’s London Handel Festival was a concert performance of this early work based on the bestselling 16th-century chivalric romance Amadis of Gaul. Despite his name, this parfait knight was in fact half-English (the illegitimate fruit of a union between the King of Gaul and an English princess) and was brought up in Scotland. He kept up tradition by conceiving a great amour for Oriana, heiress to the English throne (charmingly described in the libretto as ‘daughter of the King of the Fortunate Islands’). And it’s this element of the story, rather than the knightly escapades, monsters and other adventures, that Handel is concerned with here. In fact, the whole thing takes place within the bounds of an enchanted palace and its gardens. That was the excuse for some truly staggering stage effects in the original production and, although we didn’t have those at St George’s the other night, we did still get to enjoy the beautiful music; not to mention some excellent performances.

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Demetrio (1740): Johann Adolph Hasse

Ray Chenez

★★★

(Opera Settecento at Cadogan Hall, 21 September 2016)

Another long-overdue post finally surfaces from the drafts folder! This time it’s Hasse’s Demetrio, to which I’d been eagerly looking forward. We don’t hear much Hasse in London and Opera Settecento had managed to gather a truly exceptional cast, featuring many of the singers I enthuse about repeatedly on this blog. Erica Eloff, Rupert Charlesworth and Michael Taylor were joined in a casting coup by Ray Chenez, whom I last saw as a manipulative and ultimately tragic Marzia at Versailles. On paper, it couldn’t fail. On the night, however, unsympathetic cutting of the opera resulted in a fragmentary show, which I felt didn’t do justice either to its splendid cast or to Hasse himself.

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Elpidia: George Frideric Handel (1725)

Handel: Elpidia

★★★½

(Opera Settecento, St George’s Hanover Square, 31 March 2016)

Herewith another post from the depths of the drafts folder, which I hope still may be of some interest. I’m keen to post it because I’m a great fan of Opera Settecento’s habit of unearthing rare and unusual operas and this performance featured some of my favourite young singers. Many apologies for its lateness, but it all happened around the time of my uncle’s death and I wasn’t really up to blogging at the time. But I had a few scribbled thoughts and wanted to jostle them into some sense of order, so that I can have a record of this enjoyable and particularly complex pasticcio.

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Adriano in Siria: Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1734)

Pergolesi: Adriano

★★★★

(Opera Settecento at Cadogan Hall, 16 September 2015)

It’s no exaggeration to say that I’d been looking forward to this Adriano in Siria since the curtain fell on the last one. It’s the first full opera I’ve heard by the precociously gifted Pergolesi, who died at the age of only 26, and who is best known here in England for his haunting Stabat Mater. However, I suspect I’ll get to know Adriano itself pretty well by the end of the year. The production company Parnassus will soon* be releasing their own new recording of the opera, featuring a rather formidable cast, and Opera Settecento’s concert performance was perfectly timed to whet appetites and throw down the gauntlet.

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Erica Eloff: The Trials and Triumphs of Love

Erica Eloff

(with Ars Eloquentiae at Handel House, 2 July 2015)

The beginning of July was almost unbearably hot by London standards; and so, on walking into Handel House’s recital room, I was delighted to find a novel solution to the problem. Every chair was graced with its own neat red folded fan. The team should be congratulated: few London venues would be so thoughtful nor so imaginative (I should note that we did have to give them back at the end: a shame, as they were more efficacious than my own).

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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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Catone in Utica: George Frideric Handel (1732)

Handel: Catone in Utica

★★★★

(Opera Settecento at St George’s, Hanover Square, 17 March 2015)

We’re all going to be hearing rather a lot about Catone in Utica this year, so let’s get things off to a roaring start with a performance I saw last night at St George’s, Hanover Square, formerly Handel’s parish church, as part of the London Handel Festival. Although the opera was put together by Handel for his 1732 season, it’s stretching the truth a bit to say that it’s by him. Handel had to fill out his programmes somehow and so, at this stage of his career, he often produced one or two pasticcio operas each season alongside his own works. These pasticci were assembled from arias by several other composers and tailored by Handel to meet the taste of his demanding British public.

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