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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Handel: Theodora

03/26/2017 1:00 pm
03/26/2017 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

This is certainly the least known of George Frideric Handel's English language oratorios. It was Handel's personal favorite among his many masterpieces in that genre. The composer himself declared the final chorus of Act Two, " He saw the lovely youth...," to be the very finest he ever wrote, ranking it above the famous "Halleluyah Chorus" in his Messiah. Theodora was a failure in its initial production. The oratorio was given only three performances in 1750 and was revived only once in Handel's lifetime. After his death it was completely forgotten.

In this work Handel's musical inspirations and his powers of dramatic characterization were reaching their peak. Handel responded with passion to the story of the predicament of Theodora, an early Christian virgin and martyr. After I first broadcast Theodora on Sunday, January 23, 1994 I did not think I would ever run across another recording of something so obscure as this particular opus. Nicolas McGegan had conducted a wonderful recording of it for Harmonia Mundi USA. Then German conductor Peter Neumann matched McGegan in the interpretation he recorded for Dabringhaus und Grimm. Neumann directed the Cologne Chamber Choir and the period instrument ensemble Collegium Cartusianum. The D & G recording went over the air on Sunday, February 10, 2002. This Sunday we return to McGegan, who leads the American period instrumental group he founded, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and the University of California Berkeley Chamber Chorus.