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George Frideric Handel

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Tribuna musical

June 28

Händel´s “Julius Caesar”: best opera seria in worst staging

Tribuna musical Opera seria is a style that had a span of a bit more than a century, approximately between 1680 and 1795. Naples was the birth place of opera seria with composers such as Francesco Provenzale, Alessandro Scarlatti and Niccolò Porpora, and it was from them that Georg Friedrich Händel learned the style and afterwards perfected it becoming its greatest creator. Two librettists exerced a powerful influence: Apostolo Zeno and especially Pietro Metastasio. Zeno, though Venetian, "established the formula for the Italian opera libretto that was accepted by Metastasio" (Grove´s Dictionary). And the latter´s popularity was enormous ("his 27 librettos were set to music over 1000 times in the 18th century", Harvard´s Dictionary of Music). Main features: characters and subjects drawn from classical history or legend, a rigid structure made of recitatives and arias for "prima" or "seconda donna" and "primo" or "secondo uomo", almost no choruses, duets or concertantes only closing the acts, and a supportive orchestra that accompanies the singers but also plays an overture, a march or introductions to the arias. "Bel canto" is born: beautiful singing; not only virtuoso florid passages but also long melodies (later on the term will be applied also to the very different virtuosity of nineteenth century Romanticism). And the castrato was a feature as primo and/or secondo uomo: the purity of a child´s voice with the strength and volume of an adult: Senesino or Farinelli were immensely successful stars but the sounds they produced affected the verisimilitude of the dramatic action, even if they were attractive. Händel took London by storm when he premièred his "Rinaldo" there in 1711 and the success determined him to stay there and become the principal composer of opera seria in Great Britain´s capital for more than two decades. "Giulio Cesare", on a libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym, was premièred in 1724 at the King´s Theatre and became his most often staged operatic creation. But tastes changed and opera seria was superseded by the Romantic intensity of the nineteenth century and the innovations of the first half of the twentieth. Musicologists and editors began a resurrection before World War II, still quite arbitrary in style; however, after the war much more relevant work was done and the world had reliable editions. Notwithstanding, there was a main problem: what to do with the castrato parts if such an aberration didn´t exist anymore. In the fifties and sixties the solution was a baritone, dramatically logical though it needed adjustments in the orchestra. But Alfred Deller rediscovered the art of the countertenor after two centuries, a reinforced head emission typically British and never before used in opera seria. And gradually in the seventies the new breed of countertenors started to sing the castrato roles along with mezzosopranos. They can´t replace castratos and no true historicism is possible. Winton Dean, the greatest Händel specialist, specifies in his programme notes to the René Jacobs recording the roles and voices of Händel´s time: alto castratos Cesare and Tolomeo, sopranos Cleopatra and Sesto (but the latter was afterwards revised for tenor), contralto Cornelia and baritone Achilla. He doesn´t mention Nireno, an eunuch (castrato) and Curio, a baritone. "Giulio Cesare" underwent several revisions, for Händel adapted the music to his available casts (1725, 1730, 1732). It was his most successful opera and not only in England during his life, and it remains so: in 1991 Dean says it was offered during the twentieth century in "well over 200 productions in many countries". The plot is historical: Tolomeo and Cleopatra are joint Pharaohs, the last in Egypt´s long history; Cesare defeats the villain Tolomeo and marries Cleopatra, who remains a vassal queen to Cesare. Cornelia is the widow of Cesare´s courageous enemy Pompeo and mother of Sesto, who wants revenge on Tolomeo, who killed Pompeo. And Achilla, a warrior of Tolomeo, turns against him and helps Cesare to win a decisive battle before dying. It´s a long opera, almost four hours, and the main characters sing a lot: Cleopatra has eight arias (!), Cesare almost as many, and the others all have arias except Curio. The music is throughout of astonishing quality, both in the melodic slow sad arias and in the fast virtuosic ones, and the orchestration is varied, including horn, flute and violin solos; the duet of Cornelia and Sesto ending the First Act is of haunting beauty. The libretto by Haym is based on the one written by G.F.Bussani in 1677, though with many changes and addenda. "Giulio Cesare" had an early première in Buenos Aires, when Washington Castro conducted it for the Asociación de Conciertos de Cámara in 1959, a very honorable performance. And in 1968 a starry one at the Colón: Sills, Treigle (bass-baritone), Forrester, Schreier, Crass, conductor Karl Richter; intelligent production by Ernst Pöttgen. We had to wait until 2017 for a Colón revival, though during the Lombardero tenure at the Argentino it was premièred at La Plata. Buenos Aires Lírica gave us "Agrippina" and "Rodelinda" and the Colón, "Serse" soon after "Giulio Cesare", and in recent years "Rinaldo", though in a concert version. There are still about 35 operas of Händel that haven´t been heard in our city... And how fares the current "Giulio Cesare in Egitto"? (the new appellation defended by some recent scholars that goes against Händel´s usual policy of naming them with only the name of the protagonist)? As so often nowadays, rather interesting musically, and a disaster as a production. Two artists made their welcome debut: Amanda Majeski as an attractive Cleopatra equally adept to lightness and intense melancholy; and Jake Arditti as that rare thing, a soprano countertenor, a Sesto of beautiful timbre and completely smooth singing. Franco Fagioli is a countertenor star but I much preferred him as Rinaldo; now he has acquired a bad trait: as the music descends to the low notes his voice changes and instead of sounding like a countertenor he seems a mediocre baritone; his highs are brilliant though his florid passages sound mechanical. As Tolomeo Flavio Oliver (Colón debut, heard at La Plata last year in a contemporary opera, "Written on skin") was so grotesquely handled by producer Pablo Maritano that his accurate but acid singing and agile calisthenics seemed a parody. And the fourth (!) countertenor, Martín Oro, was a mincing, disagreeable Nireno. Two local stalwarts compensated partially: a noble, clearly etched Cornelia by Adriana Mastrángelo, and a firm performance by Hernán Iturralde of the lascivious rough Achilla. And the young baritone Mariano Gladic was a fine Curio. Martin Haselböck as conductor had the Colón Orchestra with the addenda of two recorders, two theorbos, a viola da gamba and a harpsichord, but the bland articulation of the strings was hardly historicist, and I longed for an augmented Barroca del Suquía instead. Maritano ruined whatever pleasure Händel connoisseurs could have with an insolent, kitschy contemporary staging which looked like a cross of Tinelli and Las Vegas. The costumes by Sofía Di Nunzio were particularly ugly, and the unnecessary choreography by Carlos Trunsky was inane throughout. The only saving grace was a skillful stage design and lighting by Enrique Bordolini based on a sui generis black pyramid of changing facets. Händel´s Harp Concerto was added in absurd dancing interludes. For Buenos Aires Herald

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

July 16

Label news: Handel gets turned with Glass

Decca Gold, Universal’s US classical label, has signed the American countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo. His debut album, released late 2018, will consist of arias by George Frideric Handel and Philip Glass. Both will be accompanied by Les Violons du Roy, conductor Jonathan Cohen, on period instruments.




Tribuna musical

June 28

The Mozarteum gives memorable concerts from Munich and Venice

The Mozarteum Argentino is now a venerable institution and no one doubts that its trajectory is matchless in our country. The first two items of this year´s season proved again the acumen of its Artistic Director Gisela Timmermann and the fine leadership of President Luis Alberto Erize, for they presented in their two subscription series at the Colón admirable interpretations of Mozart and Vivaldi respectively by the Munich Chamber Orchestra with violinist Veronika Eberle and by the Venice Baroque Orchestra with mezzo Romina Basso. The Munich outfit has visited us several times; founded by Christoph Stepp in 1950, its local debut was in 1955 led by its founder Christoph Stepp; they came back in 1960 at the Museo de Arte Decorativo in the eighth season of the Mozarteum and with Hans Stadlmair, who was their leader for almost four decades. They visited us for the Mozarteum two more times before the present one, who had the characteristic of coming without their current conductor, Alexander Liebreich. In this tour the concertino was the Oriental Soyeun Kang (in early announcements it was going to be Giglberger) and she ran the show from her post, with almost imperceptible gestural indications. But the other twelve violins plus four violas, three cellos, two basses, one flute, two oboes, two bassoons and two horns (not always the whole was used), a total of 29 counting the concertino, were unflinchingly together, as the true and stylish professionals that they are. There were two programmes where only Mozart´s Symphony Nº33 was played in both, with talented violinist Veronika Eberle making her local debut. In fact Symphony Nº 33 replaced the originally announced Nº 29, for this one collided with the Kammerakademie Potsdam´s programme scheduled for June 14; a pity that an early Mozart Cassazione (a type of Divertimento) mentioned to begin the first of two concerts wasn´t included. Symphony Nº 33 in B flat, K.319, is rarely played and less interesting than other symphonies before the big six (35, 36, 38 to 41) such as Nos. 25, 29, 31 and 34, but it is a work of charm and consumate ability in its four compact movements. It was beautifully played and served as an apéritif to one of the two great moments of the first concert: the immaculate reading of Mozart´s Violin Concerto Nº4, K.218 by Eberle and the orchestra. He wrote five in the brief time of nine months in 1775, when he was 19. Eberle, now 27, a disciple of the great Ana Chumachenco, showed grace, refinement and transparent articulation, as well as impeccable taste in the small cadenzas added at appropriate points where the orchestral music arrives to a pause. The encore was Kreisler´s "Liebesleid" ("Love´s sorrows"). After the interval I didn´t enjoy the première of "Hirta rounds" by the Irish composer David Fennessy (born 1976), for me it is boring minimalism. After the brief "Lyric Andante" for strings, an agreeable piece by Reger far from his usual dense writing, we came to the other high spot of the evening: a wonderful performance of that very special Symphony Nº45 ("Farewell") by Franz Joseph Haydn. It´s one of the "Sturm und drang" ("Storm and impulse") symphonies (44 to 49), a precocious harbinger of Romanticism during Classicism paralleled in literature by Schiller and Goethe. Written in 1772, indeed it starts with a stormy first movement in F sharp minor, a complex tonality rarely used at the time. Followed by a melancholy Adagio and a formal Menuet, the last delicate movement makes us understand the "Farewell" sobriquet, as players gradually leave their seats until the last phrase is played only by the concertino: it was the composer´s subtle way to suggest to his patron, Prince Esterházy, that it was time to leave their Summer Palace and go back to Eisenstadt, their winter home; and the Prince complied... The playing was exquisite and stylish throughout, and led to the encore, the last movement of, yes, Mozart´s Symphony Nº 29! The second concert started with Mozart´s Symphony Nº 33, followed by his Concerto Nº5 for violin, called "Turkish" because of an episode in the last movement that parodies that music. It innovates by interrupting the first movement´s Allegro by an elegiac violin Adagio before the return of the Allegro. Eberle was marginally less convincing, not so exact in her playing and with added cadenzas sometimes too exotic for comfort in Mozart, but still quite good, as was the orchestra (whose only flaw in both concerts came from small smudges from the horns). We had Eberle also after the interval, for she played three Kreisler pieces: "Schön Rosmarin" ("Beautiful rosemarie"), "Liebesleid" and "Liebesfreud" ("Love´s joys"), orchestrated simply, for the violin soloist always leads (orchestrations unidentified). These are charming tidbits justly famous, and Eberle played them with the care and distinction they merit. The lovely Symphony Nº5 by Schubert, written at 19 in 1816, is a homage to Mozart but with the harmonic and melodic sensitivity that distinguished the great Pre-Romantic of tragically short life. The performance was delightful though without personal touches . A pity that their encore was a repeat of the Menuet. The Venice Baroque Orchestra sports its English name though it should properly be called the Orchestra Barocca di Venezia. It was founded in 1997 by investigator and harpsichordist Andrea Marcon. Since their inception they have made pioneer work rediscovering and in certain cases recording operas by Cavalli, Vivaldi, B.Marcello and Boccherini. In this debut tour they didn´t come with Marcon but concertino Gianpiero Zanocco proved a splendid leader. And with them came a talented mezzo, Romina Basso (also debut) who has recorded five Vivaldi operas (!) and been a soloist with a redoubtable covey of specialist ensembles. Together thay gave a memorable all-Vivaldi programme presenting two Sinfonias, four Concerti and six opera arias. A veritable feast disproving the still existing prejudice about Vivaldi´s sameness, for the evening was a constant discovery of contrasting marvels. The group is basically a string ensemble (13) plus harpsichord, but one of the violinists, Anna Fusek, is also a virtuoso player of the sopranino recorder and she wowed the audience with the Concerto RV 443 (RV: Ryom Verzeichnis=Ryom catalogue). The other Concerti were for two violins, RV 516 (Zanocco, Giorgio Baldan) and the only one for two cellos, RV 531 (Massino Raccanelli Zaborra, Federico Toffano). Excellent playing save for some acidity in high long notes from the violins, probably because they use no vibrato at all (they are very historicist in style, with strong dramatic colors, though their strings are metallic, not guts). The two Sinfonias were brief, in G major (RV 146) and minor (RV 157); the sinfonias of that time were as the concertos but without soloists, nothing to do with classicist symphonies. The treat of the evening was the very different operatic arias: they were turbulent in "Bajazet", dramatic and slow in "Farnace", florid in "Orlando furioso", mild in "Atenaide", expressive in "Giustino" and fast, intense in "Argippo". Musso has a remarkable technique and range, as well as theatrical temperament. She proved adaptable to dissimilar mooods and capped the evening with that wonderful slow Händel aria, "Lascia ch´io pianga", from "Rinaldo". For Buenos Aires Herald



Royal Opera House

May 25

How The Royal Opera has kept opera looking forward for more than three hundred years

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Anna Nicole in Anna Nicole © ROH / Bill Cooper 2011 Creating new work is crucial to the future of any art form. Right from the very beginning, the Royal Opera House has played a significant role in the forging of new operas, hosting its first world premiere in 1735 with Handel’s Ariodante, just a few years after the opera house was built. Following in Handel’s footsteps are such composers as Weber , Vaughan Williams , Britten , Henze , Birtwistle and Adès , whose work was championed by the ROH – as a delve into the precious archive material in the ROH Collections reveals. The first theatre on our Covent Garden site was built in 1732. Just two years later a fortuitous (for us) series of events led Handel to become resident composer at the new theatre. Along with Ariodante there were numerous important world premieres of Handel’s music here, including the operas Alcina and Berenice, and the oratorios Semele , Judas Maccabaeus and Solomon . Read More: Explore Handel’s London After Handel’s residency relative dry spell followed, as the theatre, then called the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, primarily staged plays and English light opera. Then in 1824 it was announced that the great German composer and conductor Carl Maria von Weber was to be the theatre’s next musical director, following the fantastic acclaim his opera Der Freischütz had received across Europe. Included in Weber’s contract was the commission of a new opera: Oberon , Weber’s first opera in English. It was performed for the first time on 12 April 1826, conducted by the composer, despite his suffering from ill health. The premiere was a triumph – but tragically Weber died just 13 weeks after arriving in London. Playbill for world premiere of Oberon at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 12 April 1826 © Royal Opera House In 1847 the theatre became a dedicated opera house, initially called the Royal Italian Opera and from 1892 the Royal Opera House. The transformation was thanks to the arrival of Italian conductor Michael Costa , who made the theatre a centre for the UK premieres of new works fresh from the continent. The list of great 19th-century operas that had their UK premieres at the Royal Opera House is long, and includes Verdi ’s Rigoletto in 1853 and Falstaff in 1894, Wagner ’s Lohengrin in 1875, Saint-Saëns ’ Samson et Dalila (in concert) in 1893 and Puccini ’s Tosca in 1900, Madama Butterfly in 1905 and Turandot in 1927. Costa’s legacy was the Royal Opera House’s continuing reputation as an international centre of world-class opera. Signed black-and-white photographic print of soprano Emmy Destinn as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly © ROH Collections Madama Butterfly, 1905 © ROH Collections Charles Craig as Lieutenant F.B. Pinkerton and Sena Jurinac as Cio-Cio-San in the 1959 revival of Madama Butterfly (1950) © ROH Collections Sena Jurinac as Cio-Cio-San in the 1959 revival of Madama Butterfly (1950) © ROH Collections Sena Jurinac as Cio-Cio-San in the 1959 revival of Madama Butterfly (1950) © ROH Collections Josephine Veasey as Suzuki and Sena Jurinac as Cio-Cio-San in the 1959 revival of Madama Butterfly (1950) © ROH Collections Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly. Photograph by Roger Wood © ROH Rudolf Schock as Lieutenant Pinkerton in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly. Photograph by Roger Wood © ROH Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly. Photograph by Roger Wood © ROH Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly. Photograph by Roger Wood © ROH Sophie Fedorovitch costume design for Cio-Cio-San from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater. Sophie Fedorovitch costume detail for Cio-Cio-San from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater Sophie Fedorovitch's costume design for Cio-Cio-San from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater. Sophie Fedorovitch costume design for chorus member from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater Sophie Fedorovitch costume design for chorus member from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater Sophie Fedorovitch costume design for chorus member from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater Act II set design from Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 Roger Wood, ROH Collections. Arthur Davies as Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San and Arthur Davies as Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. John Dobson as Goro in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San and Arthur Davies as Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San and Chorus in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San and Miao Qing as Suzuki in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Frigerio set design for Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Frigerio set design for Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San and Arthur Davies as Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Miao Qing as Suzuki and Anna Cooper as Kate Pinkerton in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Set designer, Frigerio's set in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Set designer, Frigerio's set in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Set designer, Frigerio's set in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Yoko Watanabe as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Yoko Watanabe as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Set designer, Frigerio's set in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San and Dennis O'Neill as Pinkerton in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Dennis O'Neill as Pinkerton and Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Josephine Veasey as Suzuki and Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San, Leo Nucci as Sharpless and Diana Montague as Kate Pinkerton in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Francis Egerton as Goro and Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Diana Montague as Kate Pinkerton in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San and Leo Nucci as Sharpless in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San and Leo Nucci as Sharpless in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Miwako Matsumoto as Cio-Cio-San and Stuart Burrows as Pinkerton in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1978. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Model box for Act I scene from Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act II scene from Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act II scene from Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act II scene from Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act II scene from Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Signed black-and-white photographic print of composer Giacomo Puccini © ROH Collections The ROH’s equal responsibility to championing British composers came to the fore at the end of World War II. In 1946 a new resident opera company was established at the Royal Opera House: the Covent Garden Opera Company, later to become The Royal Opera. The company commissioned its first new opera in 1949, and went to a leading British composer of the day: Arthur Bliss ’s The Olympians , followed the next year by Vaughan Williams’s The Pilgrim’s Progress . The company’s first great success, though, was Britten ’s Billy Budd in 1951. The press response was rapturous, Robert Ottaway writing for the Sunday Graphic that ‘last night a masterpiece was born, and it will outlive the lot of us’. Theodore Uppman as Billy Budd in the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Scene from Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Act II scene 2 of the Covent Garden Opera Company production of Billy Budd (1951), produced by Basil Coleman at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Photograph by Roger Wood Detail of poster for the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1 December 1951 © Royal Opera House Poster for the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1 December 1951 © Royal Opera House Press cuttings from ROH Collections for the world premiere of Billy Budd, December 1951 © ROH Collections Press cuttings from ROH Collections for the world premiere of Billy Budd, December 1951 © ROH Collections Over the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st The Royal Opera commissioned new works from British and international composers, with a role call of prominent names: Britten’s Gloriana in 1953; Walton ’s Troilus and Cressida in 1954, Tippett ’s The Midsummer Marriage in 1955, The Knot Garden in 1970 and The Ice Break in 1977, Richard Rodney Bennett ’s Victory in 1970, Maxwell Davies ’s Taverner in 1972, Henze’s We Come to the River in 1976, Birtwistle’s Gawain in 1991 and The Minotaur in 2008 and Mark-Anthony Turnage ’s Anna Nicole in 2011. Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Joan Cross, Basil Coleman (producer) and Benjamin Britten during rehearsals for 'Gloriana' (1953) at Orme Square. ©1953 ROH / Roger Wood Basil Coleman (producer), Benjamin Britten and Joan Cross during rehearsals for 'Gloriana' (1953) at Orme Square. ©1953 ROH / Roger Wood Rehearsals for ‘Gloriana’ (1953) in the Crush Bar. © 1953 ROH / Roger Wood Basil Coleman (producer), Benjamin Britten and Joan Cross during rehearsals for 'Gloriana' (1953) at Orme Square. © 1953 ROH / Roger Wood Basil Coleman, Benjamin Britten and Joan Cross during rehearsals for Gloriana in 1953 at Orme Square © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Benjamin Britten and John Pritchard (conductor) sharing a joke during rehearsals for Gloriana in the Crush Bar of the Royal Opera House © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Geraint Evans as Lord Mountjoy, Jennifer Vyvyan as Lady Rich, Monica Sinclair as Frances and Joan Cross as Queen Elizabeth I in Gloriana at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1953 © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Scene from Gloriana at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1953 © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Press cuttings from ROH Collections for the world premiere of Gloriana, June 1953 © ROH Collections Press cuttings from ROH Collections for the world premiere of Gloriana, June 1953 © ROH Collections The Royal Opera’s commitment to new opera continues to the present day. Recently the Royal Opera House stage has seen the world premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas ’s Morgen und Abend in 2015 and the UK premieres of George Benjamin ’s Written on Skin and Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel , both Royal Opera co-commissions. Forthcoming premieres include Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence and Unsuk Chin ’s Alice Through the Looking Glass on the main stage, in addition to a rich programme of new work in the Linbury Studio Theatre and other spaces around London – all continuing to build on the Royal Opera House’s centuries-old tradition. Playbill for world premiere of Oberon at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 12 April 1826 © Royal Opera House Costume design by Attilio Comelli for an unnamed female character in Madama Butterfly (1905) © ROH Collections Costume design for Suzuki from 1905 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH Collections. Detail of poster for the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1 December 1951 © Royal Opera House Poster for the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1 December 1951 © Royal Opera House Theodore Uppman as Billy Budd in the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Scene from Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Basil Coleman, Benjamin Britten and Joan Cross during rehearsals for Gloriana in 1953 at Orme Square © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Benjamin Britten and John Pritchard (conductor) sharing a joke during rehearsals for Gloriana in the Crush Bar of the Royal Opera House © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Geraint Evans as Lord Mountjoy, Jennifer Vyvyan as Lady Rich, Monica Sinclair as Frances and Joan Cross as Queen Elizabeth I in Gloriana at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1953 © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Scene from Gloriana at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1953 © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Severed head prop used by John Tomlinson as the Green Knight in Gawain, The Royal Opera, 1991 © Royal Opera House Material from Collections production file for Anna Nicole, The Royal Opera, 2011 © Royal Opera House Eva-Maria Westbroek as Anna Nicole in Anna Nicole © ROH / Bill Cooper 2011 Eva-Maria Westbroek as Anna Nicole and Gerald Finley as Stern in Anna Nicole, The Royal Opera, © ROH / Bill Cooper 2011 Helena Raskar and Christoph Pohl in Morgen und Abend © ROH 2015, photograph by Clive Barda Sarah Wegener and Christoph Pohl in Morgen und Abend © ROH 2015, photograph by Clive Barda The principals (2) in The Exterminating Angel (C) ROH 2017. Photograph by Clive Barda John Tomlinson and Anne Sofie Von Otter in The Exterminating Angel (C) ROH 2017. Photograph by Clive Barda Lessons in Love and Violence runs 10–26 May 2018. Tickets go on general sale 31 January 2018. The production is a co-production with Dutch National Opera , Hamburg State Opera , Opéra de Lyon , Lyric Opera of Chicago , Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona , and Teatro Real, Madrid , and is given with generous philanthropic support from The Monument Trust, Stefan Sten Olssen and the Boltini Trust. Unsuk Chin’s Alice Through the Looking Glass will be performed as part of the 2018/19 Season.

George Frideric Handel
(1685 – 1759)

George Frideric Handel (23 February 1685 - 14 April 1759) was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, and concertos. Handel was born in Germany in the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti. Handel received critical musical training in Italy before settling in London and becoming a naturalised British subject. His works include Messiah, Water Music, and Music for the Royal Fireworks. He was strongly influenced by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition. Handel's music was well-known to composers including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.



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