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.
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.
This release celebrates and commemorates Yo-Yo Ma's 30 year recording career with Sony Music. Created with the full participation of Yo-Yo Ma, 30 Years Outside the Box, is the definitive collection of this iconic artist. The box set contains every original album Yo-Yo Ma has recorded including 2 discs of rare and never before released material.
In the winter of 1733-1734, the opera houses of London were abounding in Ariannas. In late December, Porpora's Arianna in Nasso was staged by the Opera of the Nobility. In late January, Handel's Arianna in Creta was staged by the composer's own opera company. Comparison, apparently, proved odious – and fatal: Porpora's Naxos Arianna has fallen from the repertoire while Handel's Cretan Arianna has barely hung on by her finger tips. This 2005 Greek performance with George Petrou leading the Orchestra of Patras is the work's first recording in decades – and, thankfully, it's quite fine. Most of the women soloists – and whether their characters are male or female, most of the parts here are sung by woman because most of the parts then were written for castratos – are terrific. Mata Katsuli is sweet but strong in the title role and Theodora Baka is especially effective and affecting as Alceste. The period instrument Orchestra of Patras is stylish, colorful, and lively, particularly the winds and brass playing in the finale. As captured in Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm characteristically crisp, deep, and detailed sound, this Arianna is well worth hearing by anyone who reveres the operas of the German-English composer.(James Leonard)
Serse has been one of my favorite Handel operas since I first heard the old Priestman LP on Westminster (Maureen Forrester in the title role, Lucia Popp as Romilda). Despite its frequent raggedness and "harpsichord on speed" continuo, this was a thoroughly dramatic and engaging performance. I've waited for decades for a new Serse which could benefit from the new performance standards we take for granted in baroque opera today. I was strongly disposed to like this disc, since although I've found McGegan a bit uneven in the past, his more recent Handel efforts, particularly Radamisto, have been superb. I can't fault the singers or orchestra in this performance, but the dramatic spark that makes Serse so special seems to me to be missing. I went back and compared my old Priestman recording and was even more convinced that the definitive Serse is yet to come. It's surprising there haven't been more recordings, since this work has a lot of potential appeal, and is one of Handel's most accomplished pieces. Maybe I'm just too picky, but I'd love to see someone reissue the Priestman on CD– and while they are at it, his equally engaging Rodelinda (fortunately, there is better competition for the latter).
This is an interesting addition to the Handel catalogue, a newly reconstructed version of a pasticcio that survives only in part. The work of course recycles music from other (and often rather obscure, like Berenice) Handel operas but interestingly incorporates some departures from the opera seria norm in the inclusion of several choruses - probably, as the notes indicate, an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the English oratorios. The notes also go briefly discuss the surviving text, the need to make editorial choices from other operas when the evidence is conjectural, and the composition of new recitatives for Acts II and III since the originals are lost.