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Hallelujah Handel
Sundays in April, 2011 at 9:00 PM
A four-part series celebrating a great composer and a great city
Hosted by Evans Mirageas, The Harry T. Wilks Artistic Director of Cincinnati Opera.

At the age of twenty-one, George Frideric Handel left his native Germany for the artistic riches of Italy. After a few years spent catering to the tastes of Rome and Venice, Handel arrived in England in 1710. It was in London that he would reach the greatest heights of fame, and where he would spend the rest of his long life. The scope, variety, and sheer amount of great music that flowed from his pen during his lifetime continue to delight us to this day. Whether it is the Water Music he composed for King George I, the brilliant Italian operas he wrote for the superstars of the day, or the matchless and immortal oratorios, a genre he essentially invented, Handel’s name and fame made him the first composer to attain truly international success. Over the course of four programs, we’ll explore the amazing variety of Handel’s musical genius as it developed, first in Italy, and then in London, the music capital of 18th-century Europe.

Evans Mirageas lived in London for a decade and has worked with some of the finest Handelians of our day, producing their recordings or engaging them for concerts and opera. Artist friends who will be featured include singers Renée Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, and Andreas Scholl; conductors Christopher Hogwood, Sir Roger Norrington, and more.

Part I: Handel in Italy
Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 9:00 p.m.

Handel’s genius did not simply appear out of nowhere. His most productive apprentice years as a composer were spent in Rome, an incredible hotbed of creativity at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries. Handel became the protégé of several powerful Romans—many of them cardinals of the Catholic Church—and perfected his amazing ability to write for voices in Rome. We’ll hear some of his earliest sacred, dramatic, and instrumental works, all written in the white heat of youthful discovery—all of this preparatory work for his “assault” on London.
Archived audio not available
Part II: Handel’s Singers
Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 9:00 p.m.

Not long after he took up residence in London, Handel started writing opera for the King’s Theatre in Haymarket Street. He quickly won the favor of the fickle English public with virtuoso writing for soprano and the unique voice of the male soprano or castrato. Starting with Rinaldo in 1711, Handel would write operas for three decades. He befriended, and wrote works specifically for, particular singers, including the operatic superstars of his day: the rival sopranos Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni, and the brilliant castrato Senesino, among others. We’ll revel in the astonishing variety of Handel’s arias and duets with performances and stories from the great Handelians of our own day, including Renée Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, David Daniels, and Andreas Scholl.

Part III: Handel and Royalty
Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 9:00 p.m.

During his time in London, Handel served two successive English monarchs, both named George. For George I he wrote his celebrated Water Music, and the music he composed in honor of George II’s coronation has been played at every coronation ceremony since its debut in 1727. Along the way, Handel’s operas, and eventually oratorios, caught the ear of his kings and other members of the royal family. We’ll trace Handel’s singularly successful dealings with royalty and enjoy the great music born of these associations, with stories related by conductor Nicholas McGegan, a celebrated interpreter of Handel’s music today.

Part IV: The Messiah Phenomenon
Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 9:00 p.m.

A virtue born of necessity. That’s how Handel essentially invented the form of music we know and love today as the English oratorio—a sacred music-drama. When the English public began to turn away from Handel’s version of Italian opera, and the religious views of those in power placed severe strictures on performing operas during the Lenten season, Handel wrote oratorios—often using the same solo singers who peopled his virtuoso operas. These religious dramas also featured choruses, something mostly absent from Handel’s operas. The most spectacular fruit of this period is Messiah, written in the short space of three weeks in August 1741, during a devastating London heat wave. From its premiere in Dublin the following April, Messiah has gone on to become the most beloved oratorio of all, and has been performed in versions ranging from the most intimate settings to grand Messiah festivals using choruses and orchestras of several hundred. This Easter weekend, we explore the Messiah phenomenon and the reasons it has become Handel’s most celebrated work and one of the iconic pieces of classical music.

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