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.
George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), one of the preeminent Baroque composers, was born in Germany, educated in Italy, and spent most of his career in England, making him one of the first genuinely cosmopolitan composers noted, for the elegance, sophistication, and tunefulness of his music. He established his reputation in London as a composer of Italian opera, but after public taste shifted in the 1730s, he turned to English oratorios, the most famous of which is Messiah. Other popular works include Water Music, Royal Fireworks Music, the operas Giulio Cesare and Serse, and the oratorios Israel in Egypt and Judas Maccabeus.
Equally known for his live performances and musicological work in establishing new performing practices for early opera, Alan Curtis enjoyed a fruitful career. A scholar, as well as a conductor and harpsichordist, Curtis edited several important works with an appreciation for authenticity, effective performance, and – in the case of opera – stage-worthiness. Several of his best recordings were issued in the 1990s and in the new millennium. Curtis studied first at Michigan State University and attained his bachelor's degree there in 1955.
This set contains 8 operas by Handel in 22 CDs. In many ways, this box is a mix-bag: some of them performed in the "traditional style" with severe cuts, and others in "historically-informed" performances. Selection includes some of the most popular Handel operas and some of the rarely-performed. It's the latter category that one should pay closer attention.
Skin-tight rubber and lacrosse sticks bring contemporary chic to this timeless fantasy of warriors and witches in Robert Carsen's fun-filled transformation of Handel's first London triumph. Conducting from the keyboard just as Handel himself did, Ottavio Dantone leads a youthful cast of today's luminaries in the dramatic art of Baroque opera, the 'affecting' Sonia Prina, the 'unadorned intensity' of Anett Fritsch and 'fire-breathing flair' (The Observer) of Brenda Rae.