Author Topic: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios  (Read 108186 times)

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head-case

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #20 on: November 21, 2007, 02:37:57 PM »
I wish I could understand what people are talking about with respect to Handel.  It seems to me he cranked it out at such a prodigious rate, it's hard to notice where one opera ends and another begins.  I think I could pull an aria from one opera and plunk it down in another and nobody would ever know.

Offline T-C

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2007, 11:38:00 PM »
I wish I could understand what people are talking about with respect to Handel.  It seems to me he cranked it out at such a prodigious rate, it's hard to notice where one opera ends and another begins.

Does this statement, in your opinion, sum up everything that can be said about Handel’s operas? Pretty shallow, if you ask me…

Handel opera’s were written in the framework of the opera seria, which was developed in the mid 17th centaury. It has a very rigid structure, but because of Handel’s genius, he was able to widen the diversity of forms of expression within these stiff structures and fill them with overwhelmingly beautiful and varied music. He was not an opera reformist. But for my taste, he was the greatest opera composer of the Baroque period, alongside Monteverdi.



Quote
I think I could pull an aria from one opera and plunk it down in another and nobody would ever know.

Nobody = anybody with a superficial knowledge of Handel’s operas.

That is something you can say about switching minuet movement of two Haydn symphonies or string quartets, or switching two movements in two Vivaldi’s concerti…

Harry

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #22 on: November 22, 2007, 01:22:27 AM »
I have the following Handel operas at home, and will listen to them shortly. Have no high hopes, but one never knows right...

Jeptha
Akademie fur Alte Music/Marcus Creed.

Acis & Galatea.
Ama Deus Ensemble/Valentin Radu.
I have already Gardiner's take, recorded in 1973, and like it very much.

Faramondo
Brewer Chamber Orchestra/Rudolph Palmer.

Juidas Maccabaeus.
English Chamber Orchestra/Johannes Somary.

Belsazar.
Berliner Singakademie, Kammerorchester Berlin/Dietrich Knothe.

Solomon.
English Chamber Orchestra, Amor Artis Chorale/Jeremy Somerly


I realize that not all of these performances are top notch, but it will give me a general idea of what the music is about.
Also knowing how many operas Handel has written, this is a small selection.
Acis and Galatea I like, so in that line I would like to continue.
Any advice in this would be appreciated....
Note: I will listen at least four times to every opera, before it is thrown in my refusal bin.....
« Last Edit: November 22, 2007, 01:24:48 AM by Harry »

Offline T-C

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #23 on: November 22, 2007, 01:44:16 AM »
I have the following Handel operas at home, and will listen to them shortly. Have no high hopes, but one never knows right...

Harry,

Most of the items in your list are oratorios.

If you want to get the magnitude of Handel's operatic genius, you really should start with one his greatest operas like:

Giulio Cesare
Rodelinda
Tamerlano
Ariodante
Alcina
Serse

I really advise you to start with a good recording of Giulio Cesare (like Marc Minkovski’s DG recording) and listen to it four or five times in succession.
I hope it will work for you…

Offline T-C

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #24 on: November 22, 2007, 01:52:40 AM »
I rank Marc-Antoine Charpentier the greatest french composer of the 17th century but I haven't heard any opera by him. I guess Médée by William Christie is the way to go?

Definitely the second Médée recording by William Christie with the late Lorraine Hunt in the leading role.

There is a good and cheap Christie recording of Charpentier’s David et Jonathas on Harmonia Mundi’s mid-price Musique d’abord.

Offline val

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #25 on: November 22, 2007, 02:05:03 AM »
My favorite among Händel's oratorios are "Semele" and "Hercules", the most dramatic of all, with a superb orchestra (in special Semele) and real characters, like Dejanira in Hercules.

The Messiah is an extraordinary masterpiece very well known. Jephta is also a beautiful work.

"L'Allegro, Il Penseroso ed il Moderato", "Salomon" are beautiful but more decorative.

La Resurrectione is another wonderful work, in the style of Alessandro Scarlatti, composed in Händel's youth, when he was in Italy.

At last, there is Saul, an oratorio with extraordinary moments (Saul/Samuel, that seems to anticipate Verdi's Don Carlo) but also with weak moments, in special those related to David and Jonathan. It is a pity that Händel did not center the work on Saul's tragedy. The few scenes with Saul are and by far the best of this oratorio.

Regarding the operas I only know a few, and among them I prefer Giulio Cesare and Ariodante, not forgetting the beauty of Acis and Galatea.
I must hear Orlando and Tamerlano. I have been told they are also remarkable.


Harry

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #26 on: November 22, 2007, 05:01:20 AM »
Harry,

Most of the items in your list are oratorios.

If you want to get the magnitude of Handel's operatic genius, you really should start with one his greatest operas like:

Giulio Cesare
Rodelinda
Tamerlano
Ariodante
Alcina
Serse

I really advise you to start with a good recording of Giulio Cesare (like Marc Minkovski’s DG recording) and listen to it four or five times in succession.
I hope it will work for you…


Duly noted! Thanks for the time you took, to give me such good info. :)

hildegard

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #27 on: November 22, 2007, 06:58:54 AM »
I have the following Handel operas at home, and will listen to them shortly. Have no high hopes, but one never knows right...

Jeptha
Akademie fur Alte Music/Marcus Creed.

Acis & Galatea.
Ama Deus Ensemble/Valentin Radu.
I have already Gardiner's take, recorded in 1973, and like it very much.

Faramondo
Brewer Chamber Orchestra/Rudolph Palmer.

Juidas Maccabaeus.
English Chamber Orchestra/Johannes Somary.

Belsazar.
Berliner Singakademie, Kammerorchester Berlin/Dietrich Knothe.

Solomon.
English Chamber Orchestra, Amor Artis Chorale/Jeremy Somerly


I realize that not all of these performances are top notch, but it will give me a general idea of what the music is about.
Also knowing how many operas Handel has written, this is a small selection.
Acis and Galatea I like, so in that line I would like to continue.
Any advice in this would be appreciated....
Note: I will listen at least four times to every opera, before it is thrown in my refusal bin.....

I am glad to have revived this thread, for it is quickly filling up with great information.  :)

I believe, Harry, that the Solomon recording you mention above is also a Johannes Somary. He is known for having done some of the first recordings of Handel oratorios. 

Handel's works are sheer genius, be they orchestral, oratorios, or operas. In his vocal works, as Val has aptly pointed out, not only are the characters richly depicted, but the orchestration is amazing.

Incidentally, Alexander's Feast, or The Power of Music, as it is also known, is based on an ode written by John Dryden for St. Cecilia's Day, which is today. It was first performed on this day in 1736.

Mozart

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #28 on: November 22, 2007, 04:27:24 PM »
I recently started getting into Handel, and have quite a collection, but I have run into a big problem. After about an hour of baroque opera, I feel like killing myself before listening to any more. I really haven't made past the first act of any opera except Giulio Cesare. Yesterday they where showing Rodelinda on tv and I was very excited. But the same thing happened, after like 6 arias I was exhausted and bored...I don't know what to do about it!

head-case

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #29 on: November 22, 2007, 04:50:25 PM »
I recently started getting into Handel, and have quite a collection, but I have run into a big problem. After about an hour of baroque opera, I feel like killing myself before listening to any more. I really haven't made past the first act of any opera except Giulio Cesare. Yesterday they where showing Rodelinda on tv and I was very excited. But the same thing happened, after like 6 arias I was exhausted and bored...I don't know what to do about it!
Listen to something good instead.

Offline T-C

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #30 on: November 23, 2007, 12:34:52 AM »
I really haven't made past the first act of any opera except Giulio Cesare. Yesterday they where showing Rodelinda on tv and I was very excited. But the same thing happened, after like 6 arias I was exhausted and bored...I don't know what to do about it!

Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda are great masterpieces but these are long operas. The way to get acquainted with the music is to take one act at a time. Listen to one act from Giulio Cesare or Rodelinda three or four time in succession, and than you will see how the arias which may seem at first quite similar, sound quite different when your acquaintance with the music is deepened. At the moment that you will recognize the melodies (some of them are really divine, for example, in the first act of Giulio Cesare, Cornelia first aria or the Sesto-Cornelia duet), texture, orchestration, the use of all kind of musical dramatic means etc. you will see that in the following listening you will wait for each and every aria in the same way that occurs while listening to a Mozart or Verdi opera.

But you have to take into consideration that baroque opera is very different from 19th centaury opera, and it takes quite a while to get used to the aesthetics and style of the music. The key word is EXPOSURE. If you don’t have the time or the motivation, than do what head-case suggested to you: move to something else…

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #31 on: November 23, 2007, 06:34:14 AM »
But you have to take into consideration that baroque opera is very different from 19th centaury opera, and it takes quite a while to get used to the aesthetics and style of the music.

I loved baroque opera from day one. It's the operas of Mozart and Beethoven I find difficult to enjoy.  :P
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Mozart

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #32 on: November 23, 2007, 11:53:15 PM »
Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda are great masterpieces but these are long operas. The way to get acquainted with the music is to take one act at a time. Listen to one act from Giulio Cesare or Rodelinda three or four time in succession, and than you will see how the arias which may seem at first quite similar, sound quite different when your acquaintance with the music is deepened. At the moment that you will recognize the melodies (some of them are really divine, for example, in the first act of Giulio Cesare, Cornelia first aria or the Sesto-Cornelia duet), texture, orchestration, the use of all kind of musical dramatic means etc. you will see that in the following listening you will wait for each and every aria in the same way that occurs while listening to a Mozart or Verdi opera.

But you have to take into consideration that baroque opera is very different from 19th centaury opera, and it takes quite a while to get used to the aesthetics and style of the music. The key word is EXPOSURE. If you don’t have the time or the motivation, than do what head-case suggested to you: move to something else…


Thanks for the advice :) Getting acquainted with baroque operas are pretty easy because I find the arias easy to interpret.  I generally love the first few arias of every opera I have tried to listen to, and then it just gets boring to me. The action just moves much slower than the operas I am used to, the arias are incredibly long and I loose the ability to focus. I also find it hard to find libretti for baroque operas online, so I usually don't know what is going on. It seems to me baroque opera has many flaws, but some nice qualities as well.

Offline knight66

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #33 on: November 24, 2007, 12:24:37 AM »
I agree with the advice you have been given by TC. The arias can be extremely long and tend to be in the A-B-A structure, so when you have had about six minutes, they start again and you get another three. However, if the performances are imaginative, when A comes round again, it is modified by decoration or by altering the mood of the piece. Try to look out for that.

I think it is a matter of getting used to the style and allowing the piece to unfold rather than willing it to move on. One act at a time sounds excellent, then when you are really familiar with the music, the whole piece. If this does not work; go for highlights.

Mike
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Offline MishaK

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #34 on: December 05, 2007, 10:09:30 AM »
Another vote for the Christie Giulio Cesare DVD, though having just watched that same production live at the Lyric last Saturday (with Emanuelle Haim conducting) with the terriffic countertenor David Daniels in the lead role, I wish it had been recorded with him instead. I would also add that anyone looking for an excellent Hercules should likewise consider Christie's DVD:



Another engrossing production, excellently sung and vigorously directed by Christie. Nice stage direction as well. The choir pointing fingers at Dejanira, exclaiming "Jealousy!" is a great moment. I had the pleasure of seeing this production live as well, two years ago at the BAM.

Mozart

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #35 on: December 12, 2007, 09:31:11 PM »
Anyone know where I can find the libretto for Agrippina or Ariodante? And a plus if its in English!

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #36 on: December 13, 2007, 03:58:26 AM »
Anyone know where I can find the libretto for Agrippina or Ariodante? And a plus if its in English!

Ariodante (Italian only).

This French site has lots of libretti, including those two and 34 others by Handel.  Most are original language with French translation.  You do have to register to get to that libretto page, but it's free.
“Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

Harry

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #37 on: December 13, 2007, 04:41:26 AM »
Great thanks! Now I just need to learn french...  ;D

Easy cake, if you understand Mozarts Italian libretti...... ;D

Morigan

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #38 on: December 13, 2007, 06:24:20 AM »
Another vote for the Christie Giulio Cesare DVD, though having just watched that same production live at the Lyric last Saturday (with Emanuelle Haim conducting) with the terriffic countertenor David Daniels in the lead role, I wish it had been recorded with him instead. I would also add that anyone looking for an excellent Hercules should likewise consider Christie's DVD:



Another engrossing production, excellently sung and vigorously directed by Christie. Nice stage direction as well. The choir pointing fingers at Dejanira, exclaiming "Jealousy!" is a great moment. I had the pleasure of seeing this production live as well, two years ago at the BAM.


David Daniels as Cesare? *faints* I really want to see and hear that.

Offline MishaK

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #39 on: December 13, 2007, 09:44:45 AM »

David Daniels as Cesare? *faints* I really want to see and hear that.

Well, sadly, you missed it. The performance I saw was the last of the season. Daniels does have a disc of solo Handel arias out (with Norrington and his band accompanying), which includes the main arias from Cesare.

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