Ercole sul Termodonte: Antonio Vivaldi (1723)

Vivaldi: Ercole sul Termodonte

★★★½

(Spoleto Festival, 2006, Il Complesso Barocco with Alan Curtis)

We’ve discussed, on a previous occasion, the indignities inflicted on opera singers, but the sadomasochism of Alcina has just been comprehensively trumped. I’d like to say that one remembers this production of Ercole sul Termodonte for its wonderful music, or for the simple and effective set designs, or for the generally admirable cast. But this would be disingenuous. Cast, crew and orchestra must have known, from the moment they began rehearsals, that this opera would be remembered forever for Zachary Stains performing the title role of Ercole stark naked, with nothing to preserve his modesty except the occasional fortuitous shadow cast by the paws of his lion-skin cloak.

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Randall Scotting: A Year in the Life of Handel: 1738

Randall Scotting

A recital by Randall Scotting and Marie van Rhijn

(Handel House Museum, 22 March 2015)

Back in October, on visiting Handel House for the first time, I wrote about their exhibition, A Year in the Life of Handel. This focused on the works produced by Handel in 1738 and the challenges he faced at the time. Not least of these was the growing indifference of the English public to Italian opera seria: audiences were thinning out and there was barely enough interest to sustain one Italian opera company, let alone Handel’s team at Covent Garden and the rival Opera of the Nobility. As if that wasn’t enough, Italian opera was also being satirised in English-language burlesques, most famously The Dragon of Wantley.

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