The English Concert Plays Handel's Theodora

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

The English Concert at Carnegie Hall. The English Concert at Carnegie Hall. (Kim Nowacki/WQXR)

Last month, early-music specialist Harry Bicket came to Carnegie Hall with the English Concert for the latest installment in their Handel project—the rarely heard oratorio Theodora.

Tune in Sunday at 7 pm to hear that performance featuring an all-star lineup of soloists: soprano Dorothea Röschmann, mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly, countertenor David Daniels, tenor Kurt Streit and bass-baritone Neal Davies.

On choral duties is the Choir of Trinity Wall Street led by Julian Wachner. (Read along with the libretto here.)

Theodora was "Handel's biggest flop and the piece he was most proud of," according to Bicket. But then one could look at other works that "perhaps didn't have such a great reception the first time around and we now appreciate as the masterpieces that they are." Bicket called it a social-political story, influenced by Thomas Paine, among other thinkers, and also an introspective work. Listen to the full interview:

Please note that, due to time constraints, two Act I arias were cut from this broadcast: "Bane of virtue, nurse of passions" (sung by Irene) and "Dread the fruits of Christian folly" (Septimius). Cuts were made in consultation with conductor Harry Bicket.

Performers

  • The English Concert
    Harry Bicket, Artistic Director and Conductor
  • Dorothea Röschmann, Soprano (Theodora)
  • Sarah Connolly, Mezzo-Soprano (Irene)
  • David Daniels, Countertenor (Didymus)
  • Kurt Streit, Tenor (Septimius)
  • Neal Davies, Bass-Baritone (Valens)
  • The Choir of Trinity Wall Street
    Julian Wachner, Director of Music and the Arts

Comments [8]

A. Craig

It is a shame that the cuts had to be made at all, but thank you for your updated post explaining that they were made in consultation with conductor Harry Bicket.

Mar. 21 2014 08:24 AM
Phil Jackson from Brooklyn, NY

Nothing is good enough for these people. A radio station broadcasts the same composition for three hours straight, but they left out an aria; did you ever hear of such a thing?
I listened for a while and although the arias I heard, were not "show stoppers," oh, what pleasing listening.

Mar. 19 2014 04:33 PM
Peter J Blume from Westchester, NY

I am honestly not that familiar with the volume of Handel's works for voices, however I am quite familiar with the massive amount of instrumental music that he composed--thanks to the ULTRA-fine recordings of these master-works that were made in completion to CD during the 80's & 90's by The English Concert—under the direction of Trevor Pinnock. In my humble opinion, this ensemble possibly captures the entire Handel catalog better than any other I have ever heard or studied. So I am not surprised to learn that their recent reading of 'Theodora' under the new(er) direction of Harry Bicket was well received.

Long live the great music of Handel...& of the English Concert!
-peterjblume.com

Mar. 18 2014 10:20 AM
A. Craig from Montreal

I was present at this performance in Carnegie Hall last month. It was wonderful and COMPLETE,and I was very much looking forward to hearing it again, so I was particularly disappointed that the WXQR broadcast instituted some unannounced cuts (Sarah Connolly singing Irene's Act I aria "Bane of Virtue" for instance - which incidentally she sang superbly). If the actual performance had to be cut to fit in the three-hour broadcast slot, why leave in some of the unnecessary chat by the commentators instead?? This was a very poor decision.

Mar. 16 2014 11:00 PM
Geoffrey Akst from NYC

Like Lgrif above, I can't find the libretto for Theodora on the WQXR website, which was announced on the air. Perhaps it is clearly marked and we are just missing it???? However I see that it is on the web elsewhere, at http://opera.stanford.edu/iu/libretti/theodora.htm .

Mar. 16 2014 07:30 PM
Lgrif from Brooknlyn

Jeff Spurgeon announced that the libretto is on the WQXR website but I have looked everywhere and cannot find the link--even used the search feature. Why are links like this always, always so difficult to find? Help! Thanks.

Mar. 16 2014 07:15 PM

I am so very much looking forward to this. I hope it will be available, as a stream, after the broadcast, which I can't always get, here in the mountains of southern Utah.

Mar. 16 2014 06:07 PM
steve wall from western nc

we saw theodora in chapel hill last month-- right up there with the met parsifal last year-- simple astonishing- highly recommended....are bicket and co returning next year for alcina??

Mar. 16 2014 08:46 AM

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