Written in the summer of 1749, Theodora was premiered in London at Covent Garden Theatre on 16 March 1750. This work, which Handel considered his finest oratorio, was a failure at first - Handel said bitterly that the hall was so empty that "there was room enough to dance there." Part of this failure could be explained by the earthquake that hit London in February of the same year and caused the upper classes to flee the city, but another possibility is that the subject matter of the oratorio - the rebellion of a woman against the power of the state - was a bit ahead of its time.
Vivaldi's sacred music is not so famous as that of his contemporaries Bach and Handel, so this is a bargain opportunity to catch up. You might think Vivaldi's playful, virtuoso Italianate character and Catholic context would produce radically different music, but in George Guest's urgent readings, the mixture of restrainedly exultant choruses and austerely beautiful arias are near-identical to Bach.
Here we have the first recording of Handel's final Italian opera with a period instrument orchestra, chorus and a superb American cast. Deidamia was Handel's last opera. He began work on it in October, 1740, at the same time he was completing its companion work, Imeneo, which he had begun two years earlier. On November 8, Handel presented his London winter season - with some new works, some revivals - and for this purpose had engaged the Theatre Royal at Lincoln's Inn Fields. Opening night saw a semi-staged version of the serenata Il Parnasso in festa; later in the month came the premiere of Imeneo. Despite a superb score and fine cast, the production was a failure and was offered only once again in early December. The fact is that opera - Italian opera - was passe in London by this time. The public had turned to other musical delights - stage works in English of a more frivolous nature than Handel's offerings.
Sara Mingardo has been creating quite a stir in baroque circles but this is my first chance to catch up with her. In one sense she may be considered a "typical" baroque singer, in the sense that she uses a completely straight vocal production, from which vibrato has been rigorously excluded, and cultivates a somewhat plangent, nasal sound, with the result that a casual listener might suppose he was listening to a counter-tenor.
Festival d'Aix-en-Provence has firmly established itself as France’s preeminent summer festival and is a key fixture on the international festival calendar. It is particularly in the field of opera that the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence continues to break new ground and this release from the 2016 festival demonstrates that. In this new staging – a coproduction with the Opéra de Lille, Théâtre de Caen – Emmanuelle Haïm directs Le Concert d’Astrée with a star-studded cast including Franco Fagioli, Sara Mingardo, Michael Spyres, and exclusive Erato artist Sabine Devieilhe.
Faustina Bordoni was one half of Handel’s so-called ‘Rival Queens’ for just under three seasons (172628), and in 1730 she married Hasse in Venice – so Vivica Genaux’s recital of arias for Faustina by Handel and Hasse is such an obviously sensible idea that it’s amazing it hasn’t been done before. Quantz praised Faustina’s immaculate articulation and excellent trills – and Genaux lives up to that vocal artistry brilliantly with the copious trills and arching melodic phrases in the long but lovely ‘Piange quel fonte’ from Hasse’s Numa Pompilio.
Nicholas McGegan has done more for the early music movement in America than nearly anyone else, and his tireless explorations of the byways of Baroque opera have put many fascinating works into the concert hall and onto recordings. He studied piano at London's Trinity College of Music and learned to play the flute while he was there, but entertained no special desire to study historical performance.