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Handel: Theodora / Lorraine Hunt; David Daniels, Dawn Upshaw, Richard Croft / Glyndebourne 1996

Album Summary

>Handel, George Frideric : Theodora
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Gramophone Magazine
The special qualities remain intact without the visual dramatic elements...Avid Handelians must own this just for Lorraine Hunt's singing of 'As with rosy steps', which abounds in integrity and humanity...David Daniels has never made a better studio recording than his nobly courageous Didymus...The OAE's playing is routinely marvellous; Christie's pacing and characterisation of Handel's music are satisfyingly lyrical.

Here for the first time on CD is Glyndebourne's acclaimed 1996 production of Handel's oratorio Theodora. Although Theodora is a story of a virtuous woman and sexual persecution, this has not proved to be an obstacle to its enduring success, the subject a deeply touching one, resonating from the age of antiquity to the present day. The recording is the debut on the Glyndebourne label for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, one of Glyndebourne's two resident orchestras. This audio release, in no way detracting from the extraordinary Peter Sellar's production, allows the focus to be on the soloists, conductor and orchestra. This recording confirms Lorraine Hunt as a true Handelian, capturing the spirit of Irene as few others could. In counter-tenor David Daniels as Didymus, there is a breadth of range drawing the listener away from the oft strained and forced falsetto sound. From the outset Dawn Upshaw is a heartfelt Theodora culminating magnificently in her final duet with Daniels 'Thither let our hearts aspire... ' the delivery, sensitivity and ensemble nothing short of numbing. There is no better choice of debut release from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on the Glyndebourne label, William Christie's musical approach one of transcendence, making the most of this wonderful music. Great opera performances are often fleeting moments in time but since 1960, every note of every Glyndebourne Festival performance has been recorded. 'Eaves-dropping' on these live performances allows some of the most seminal opera performances of the last fifty years to be enjoyed by all. '... Musically and dramatically this production is flawless.' Andrew Clements, The Guardian

"Those who saw Peter Sellars' production of Theodora with its original American cast or any of its revivals is unlikely to forget the experience...Anyone wanting a library version of the oratorio would be better considering one of the studio-made recordings, but as a memento of one of Glyndebourne's finest shows of recent times, it's matchless." -The Guardian

BBC Music Magazine
Something very special is audible here: though slow to ignite in all but Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's transcendent Irene, there is a sense of collective devotion as electric as any Bach Passion...American accent to the fore, Upshaw tears up the Baroque style-manual. It's gushy, sometimes croony, a hair's breadth from broadway, but it is deeply felt and deeply moving.

American Record Guide, September / October 2012
This truly great masterpiece has been rediscovered by musicians and music-lovers only in recent decades, and now is recognized for its worth, musically and dramatically. At hand is no less than the eighth audio recording (plus one video) - a quite impressive showing in the Handel discography, and I think that the composer would be pleased that this seeming stepchild has been vindicated.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Glyndebourne Opera House, Lewes, England (05/1996/06/1996).


Outstanding recording of this Baroque Opera
This three disc set from the Glyndebourne Festival Opera of a 1996 production of this opera features a young David Daniels (countertenor), Dawn Upshaw (soprano), Richard Croft (tenor), and Lorraine Hunt (mezzo-soprano). This tale of Christian Martyrdom in and of itself is quite fitting for a production, but this cast just sizzles. David Daniels was certainly in fine voice on the day this was recorded, as his rich velvet countertenor caresses the ears while Handel’s music touches the heart and mind. Dawn Upshaw and Richard Croft both do remarkable justice to their characters, but Lorraine Hunt has just an amazing voice – it is captivating, and with Handel the voices themselves are in good hands. William Christie conducts and performs on harpsichord, and his touch is sure and the sound of his instrument bright.

As is typical of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera recordings (of which I have several), the liner notes are excellent, documenting not only the historical information relevant to the creation of this piece but also providing the full text of the opera. Photographs of the production are also reproduced therein. And the recording quality is just simply outstanding.

This three disc set is a steal. It is captivating, thrilling, and provides a very satisfying listening experience. It makes you wish you had been there in person. Very highly recommended.

Submitted on 11/19/12 by KlingonOpera 
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Works Details

>Handel, George Frideric : Theodora
  • Performers: Jonathan Hinden (Harpsichord); William Christie (Harpsichord); Jonathan Hinden (Organ); Elizabeth Kenny (Theorbo)
  • Conductor: William Christie
  • Ensemble: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
  • Running Time: 184 min. 49 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Cantata/Oratorio
  • Written: 1749