The Handel Institute

G. F. Handel's Compositions

HWV 1-42


HWV 1: Almira [Der in Krohnen erlangte Glücks-Wechsel, oder Almira, Königin von Castilien]

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Friedrich Christian Feustking, after Giulio Pancieri (1691)
  • Completed score: early 1705? (autograph lost)
  • First performance: 8 January 1705, Theater am Gänsemarkt, Hamburg (20 performances)
  • Notes: Handel's first and only extant Hamburg opera
  • HG edition: 55
  • HHA edition: II/1

HWV 2: Nero [Die durch Blut and Mord erlangete Liebe]

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Friedrich Christian Feustking
  • Completed score: early 1705?
  • First performance: 25 February 1705, Theater am Gänsemarkt, Hamburg (3 performances)
  • Notes: Handel's second opera, first performed two days after his 20th birthday; music lost.

HWV 3: Florindo [Der beglückte Florindo]

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Hinrich Hinsch
  • Completed score: 1706?
  • First performance: January 1708, Theater am Gänsemarkt, Hamburg
  • Notes: Almost all music lost; originally composed as a single opera ("Florindo und Daphne") combined with "Daphne" (HWV 4) but divided before performances.
  • HHA edition: IV/19 (fragment)

HWV 4: Daphne [Die verwandelte Daphne]

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Hinrich Hinsch
  • Composed: 1706?
  • First performance: January 1708, Theater am Gänsemarkt, Hamburg
  • Notes: Almost all music lost; originally composed as single opera ("Florindo und Daphne") combined with "Florindo" (HWV 3) but divided before performances.
  • HHA edition: IV/19 (fragment)

HWV 5: Rodrigo [Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria]

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous, after Francesco Silvani's Il duello d'amore e di vendetta (Venice, 1700 - music by Marc'Antonio Ziani)
  • Completed score: 1707
  • First performance: October/November 1707 (first documented performance on 9 November 1707), Teatro del Cocomero, Florence
  • Original cast:
    • Rodrigo, King of Castile: Stefano Frilli (castrato)
    • Esilena, his wife: Anna Maria Cecchi Torri, called "La Beccarina" (soprano)
    • Giuliano, count of Ceuta: Francesco Guicciardi (tenor)
    • Florinda, sister of Giuliano: Aurelia Marcello (soprano)
    • Evanco, King of Aragon: Caterina Azzolini, called "La Valentina" (soprano)
    • Fernando: Giuseppe Perini (castrato)
  • Notes: Handel's first Italian opera; origin of commission and date of premiere unknown.
  • HG edition: 56
  • HHA edition: II/2

HWV 6: Agrippina

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous; sometimes attributed to Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani
  • Completed score: late 1709 (autograph undated)
  • First performance: 26 December 1709, Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, Venice (reputedly 27 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Agrippina: Margherita Durastanti (soprano)
    • Claudio: Antonio Francesco Carli (bass)
    • Poppea: Diamante Maria Scarabelli (soprano)
    • Ottone: Francesca Vanini-Boschi (contralto)
    • Nerone: Valeriano Pellegrini (castrato)
    • Pallante: Giuseppe Boschi (bass)
    • Narciso: Giuliano Albertini (castrato)
    • Lesbo: Nicola Pasini (bass)
    • Giunone: ? (contralto)
  • HG edition: 57
  • HHA edition: II/3

HWV 7a: Rinaldo

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: scenario by Aaron Hill versified by Giacomo Rossi, modelled upon Torquato Tasso's poem La Gerusalemme liberata
  • Completed score: probably January 1711
  • First performance: 24 February 1711, Queen's Theatre, Haymarket, London (15 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Rinaldo: Nicolo Grimaldi, called "Nicolino" (castrato)
    • Armida: Elisabetta Pilotti-Schiavonetti, called "Pilotti" (soprano)
    • Goffredo: Francesca Vanini-Boschi (contralto)
    • Almirena: Isabella Girardeau (soprano)
    • Eustazio: Valentino Urbani, called "Valentini" (castrato)
    • Argante: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
    • Mago (Christian magician): Giuseppe Cassani (castrato)
    • Sirene: ? (sopranos)
    • Aroldo (Herald): Mr. Lawrence (tenor)
  • Handel's early revivals: 23 January 1712 (9 performances), 6 May 1713 (2 performances), 30 December 1714 (11 performances), 5 January 1717 (10 performances); for Handel's radically altered revival in 1731 see HWV7b below.
  • Notes: Handel's first opera for London had more performances (53) in the British capital during his lifetime than any of his other operas
  • HG edition: 58
  • HHA edition: II/4

HWV 7b: Rinaldo ("second" verson)

  • Genre: Opera
  • First performance: 6 April 1731, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (6 performances)
  • 1731 revival cast:
    • Rinaldo: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Almirena: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Armida: Antonia Maria Merighi (contralto)
    • Goffredo: Annibale Pio Fabri (tenor)
    • Argante: Francesca Bertolli (contralto)
    • Mago (Christian magician): Giovanni Giuseppe Commano (bass)
    • Aroldo (Herald): ? (bass)
  • Notes: Substantially revised score omitted the role of Eustazio, diminished the parts of Armida and Argante, and involved transpositions for every character apart from Almirena. 8 numbers were inserted from other works and an extended new accompanied recitative was provided for Senesino ("Orrori menzogneri").
  • HHA edition: II/4.2

HWV 8a: Il pastor fido ['The faithful shepherd']

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Giacomo Rossi, after Giovanni Battista Guarini's pastoral play (1585)
  • Completed score: 24 October 1712
  • First performance: 22 November 1712, Queen's Theatre, Haymarket, London (7 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Mirtillo: Valeriano Pellegrini (castrato)
    • Amarilli: Elisabetta Pilotti-Schiavonetti (soprano)
    • Eurilla: Francesca Margherita de l'Épine (soprano)
    • Silvio: Valentino Urbani (castrato)
    • Dorinda: Jane Barbier (contralto)
    • Tirenio: Richard Leveridge (bass)
  • Handel's revivals: HWV 8b - a radically altered and extended revival Il pastor fido performed at the conclusion of Handel's 1733-4 season. Performed 13 times between 18 May and 6 July 1734 by a cast including Giovanni Carestini (Mirtillo), Anna Maria Strada del Pò (Amarilli), Margherita Durastanti (Eurilla), Carlo Scalzi (Silvio), Maria Caterina Negri (Dorinda) and Gustavus Waltz (Tirenio), three quarters of the musical numbers were borrowed from other Handel works that had been created during the intervening years (Teseo, Rodelinda, Riccardo primo, Lotario, Ezio and the recent serenata Parnasso in festa), which included choruses for shepherds and hunters.
    On 9 November 1734 this version was further revised for five performances at Covent Garden, which featured a slightly different cast at Covent Garden (John Beard replaced Scalzi as Silvio; Maria Rosa Negri replaced Durastanti as Eurilla), ballets for Marie Sallé and her French dancers, and the extended new prologue Terpsicore (see HWV 8c below).
  • HG edition: 59, 84
  • HHA edition: II/5, 31

HWV 8c: Terpsicore (prologue to Il pastor fido, November 1734)

  • Genre: Opera prologue
  • Completed score: October 1734? (autograph and conducting score both lost)
  • First performance: 9 November 1734, Covent Garden, London (as prologue to revival of Il pastor fido, HWV 8b)
  • Notes: Handel's only opera prologue uses a scenario adapted from the prologue to Louis Fuzelier and Colin de Blamont's ballet Les festes grecques et romaines (Paris, 1723); Handel's score presents panegyric choruses, vocal music for Apollo (sung by Carestini) and Erato (the muse of music - sung by Strada), and diverse kinds of dances for Terpsicore (the muse of dance - performed by Marie Sallé).
  • HG edition: 84
  • HHA edition: II/31

HWV 9: Teseo

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Nicola Francesco Haym, adapted from Philippe Quinault's Thésée (Paris, 1675 - music by Jean-Baptiste Lully)
  • Completed score: 19 December 1712
  • First performance: 10 January 1713, Queen's Theatre, Haymarket, London (13 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Teseo: Valeriano Pellegrini (castrato)
    • Medea: Elisabetta Pilotti-Schiavonetti (soprano)
    • Agilea: Francesca Margherita de l'Épine (soprano)
    • Egeo: Valentino Urbani (castrato)
    • Clizia: Maria Gallia (soprano)
    • Arcane: Jane Barbier (contralto)
    • Sacerdote di Minerva: Richard Leveridge (bass)
  • Notes: Handel's only opera structured in the French-style of five Acts, but never revived by him. The first two nights had a full house, but then the Queen's Theatre manager Owen Swiney fled to Italy with the box office receipts, having failed to pay for the expensive new scenery, costumes and singers. The Swiss-born John Jacob Heidegger became the new manager of the theatre.
  • HG edition: 60
  • HHA edition: II/6

HWV 10: Silla [Lucio Cornelio Silla]

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Giacomo Rossi, based on historical incidents reported by Plutarch (who calls the title-character as "Sulla")
  • Completed score: probably late spring or early summer 1713
  • First performance: No documented performance; the printed libretto is dated 2 June 1713, so there might have been a private performance (perhaps in the Queen's Theatre) for Lord Burlington, with whom Handel seems to have been closely connected during his early years in London.
  • Notes: The libretto was dedicated to the Duke D'Aumont, appointed in 1712 by Louis XIV as French Ambassador to Queen Anne's court; Handel reused some of the music in his next opera Amadigi (HWV 11).
  • HG edition: 61
  • HHA edition: II/7

HWV 11: Amadigi di Gaula

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Anonymous (probably Nicola Haym), adapted from Antoine Houdar de la Motte's Amadis de Grèce (Fountainebleau, 1699 - music by André Cardinal Destouches)
  • Completed score: Spring 1715? (autograph lost)
  • First performance: 25 May 1715, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (6 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Amadigi: Nicolo Grimaldi called "Nicolino" (castrato)
    • Oriana: Anastasia Robinson (soprano)
    • Melissa: Elisabetta Pilotti-Schiavonetti, called "Pilotti" (soprano)
    • Dardano: Diana Vico (contralto)
    • Orgando: [unidentified soprano]
  • Handel's revivals: 1716 (6 performances), 1717 (5 performances; included "a New Scene" for Nicolino and Anastasia Robinson)
  • Notes: The printed libretto was dedicated by the theatre manager Heidegger to the Earl of Burlington, with whom Handel might have been living during the period of the opera's composition.
  • HG edition: 62
  • HHA edition: II/8

HWV 12a: Radamisto

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: probably Nicola Haym, after Domenico Lalli's L'amor tirannico (Venice, 1710 - music by Gasparini), which was modelled after Georges de Scudéry’s tragicomedy L’amour tyrannique (Paris, 1639)
  • Completed score: early Spring 1720? (autograph undated)
  • First performance: 27 April 1720, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (10 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Radamisto: Margherita Durastanti (soprano)
    • Zenobia: Anastasia Robinson (contralto)
    • Polissena: Ann Turner Robinson (soprano)
    • Tiridate: Alexander Gordon (tenor)
    • Farasmane: John Lagarde (bass)
    • Tigrane: Caterina Galerati (soprano)
    • Fraarte: Benedetto Baldassari (castrato)
  • Handel's revivals: see HWV 12b
  • Notes: Handel's first opera for the newly founded Royal Academy of Music; the company's first production had been Giovanni Porta's Numitore (2 April 1720).
  • HG edition: 63
  • HHA edition: II/9

HWV 12b: Radamisto (second version)

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: see HWV 12a
  • First performance: 28 December 1720, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (7 performances)
  • Revival cast:
    • Radamisto: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Zenobia: Margherita Durastanti (soprano)
    • Polissena: Maddalena Salvai (soprano)
    • Tiridate: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
    • Farasmane: John Lagarde (bass)
    • Tigrane: Matteo Berselli (castrato)
    • Fraarte: Caterina Galerati (soprano)
  • Notes: The 28 December 1720 version differed considerably from April 1720: all mention of Fraarte's love for Zenobia was excised because Fraarte's significance and status within the opera was reduced; Handel removed 8 arias and composed 10 new ones, one of which was introduced by a new accompanied recitative, a duet and quartet; much remaining music was revised or allocated to different characters, in most cases to accomodate changes of voice type (Radamisto changed from soprano to alto castrato, Zenobia from alto to soprano and Tiridate from tenor to bass).
  • Handel's later revivals: 1721 (4 performances; role of Fraarte cut), 1728 (approximately 7 performances; Zenobia sung by Faustina and Polissena sung by Cuzzoni).

HWV 13: Muzio Scevola (Act 3 only)

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Paolo Rolli, after Silvio Stampiglia (Vienna, 1710 - music by Giovanni Bononcini)
  • Completed score: 23 March 1721 (Handel's first opera autograph to feature its date of completion)
  • First performance: 15 April 1721, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London
  • Original cast:
    • Muzio Scevola: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Clelia: Margherita Durastanti (soprano)
    • Orazio: Matteo Berselli (castrato)
    • Fidalma: Maddalena Salvai (soprano)
    • Lucio Tarquinio: Caterina Galerati (soprano)
    • Irene: Anastasia Robinson (contralto)
    • Porsena: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
  • Handel's revival: 27 October 1722 (5 performances; role of Fidalma cut)
  • Notes: Seemingly designed as an opportunity for the recently founded Royal Academy of Music to demonstrate its musical assets by presenting 3 acts each written by a different composer (operas created by a panel of authors were not unusual in Italy). The music for Act I was composed by Filippo Amadei, and Act II's music was provided by Bononcini (who did not recycle any of his 1710 Viennese setting); Handel's Act III consists of a two movement French overture, 11 arias, 2 duets, a battle symphony, 4 accompanied recitatives and a final chorus.
  • HG edition: 64
  • HHA edition: II/10

HWV 14: Il Floridante

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Paolo Rolli, after Francesco Silvani's La Costanza in trionfo (Venice, 1696 - music by Marc'Antonio Ziani)
  • Completed score: 28 November 1721 (final pages of autograph lost but date added by Charles Jennens to his manuscript copy)
  • First performance: 9 December 1721, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (15 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Floridante : Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Elmira: Anastasia Robinson (contralto)
    • Oronte: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
    • Timante: Benedetto Baldassari (castrato)
    • Rossane: Maddalena Salvai (soprano)
    • Coralbo: ?John Lagarde (bass)
  • Handel's revivals: 1722 (7 performances; including new arias for Durastanti in the role of Rossane, some of which were borrowed from the cantata Crudel tiranno amor, HWV 97), 1727 (2 performances; makeshift revival because the prima donna Cuzzoni had fallen ill), 1733 (7 performances).
  • Notes: "Handel had to interrupt his composition after one and a half acts because ... news reached London that his female lead Margherita Durastanti (soprano) had fallen ill. After the directors of the Royal Academy of Music had substituted her with Anastasia Robinson (alto, originally supposed to sing Rossane), Handel was forced to revise his score by transposing the part of Elmira to fit Robinson's alto range and by rewriting or substituting Rossane's arias for Maddalena Salvai, a soprano." (Hans Dieter Clausen, 'Floridante', The Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia)
  • HG edition: 65
  • HHA edition: II/11

HWV 15: Ottone, re di Germania

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Nicola Francesco Haym, after Steffano Bendetto Pallavicino's Teofane (Dresden, 1719 - music by Antonio Lotti; Handel probably attended this production)
  • Completed score: 10 August 1722 (although Handel thoroughly revised the score at least twice before the first performance)
  • First performance: 12 January 1723, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (14 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Ottone: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Teofane: Francesca Cuzzoni (soprano)
    • Gismonda: Margherita Durastanti (soprano)
    • Adelberto: Gaetano Berenstadt (castrato)
    • Matilda: Anastasia Robinson (contralto)
    • Emireno: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
  • Handel's revivals: 11 December 1723 (6 performances), 1726 (9 performances), 1727 (2 performances), 1733 (4 performances)
  • Notes: Cuzzoni's benefit performance on 26 March 1723 featured 4 new arias (including the original version of 'L'empio sleale' written for Senesino; later adapted for Tolomeo in Giulio Cesare); the 1726 revival featured 5 new arias. A year after Handel's final revival of Ottone, a bowdlerized version of the opera was produced by his competitors the Opera of the Nobility at the King's Theatre (5 performances): Senesino and Cuzzoni reprised their original roles, and Adelberto was sung by Farinelli - although not one of his 7 arias for the occasion belonged to the part, and 5 were drawn from other Handel operas (Riccardo primo, Lotario and Partenope).
  • HG edition: 66
  • HHA edition: II/12

HWV 16: Flavio, re de' Langobardi

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Nicola Francesco Haym, after the anonymous libretto Il Flavio Cuniberto (Rome, 1696 - music by Luigi Mancia), which had been adapted from a libretto by Matteo Noris (Venice, 1682 - music by Gian Domenico Partenio)
  • Completed score: 7 May 1723
  • First performance: 14 May 1723, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (8 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Guido: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Emilia: Francesca Cuzzoni (soprano)
    • Flavio: Gaetano Berenstadt (castrato)
    • Vitige: Margherita Durastanti (soprano)
    • Teodata: Anastasia Robinson (contralto)
    • Lotario: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
    • Ugone: Alexander Gordon (tenor)
  • Handel's revival: 1732 (4 performances)
  • Notes: Handel's autograph was initially entitled Emilia; the change of title may have been to avoid close similarity with the title of Bononcini's new opera Erminia (first performed 20 March 1723). Perhaps the rehearsals of Flavio were the occasion of the famous anecdote that the temperamental Scottish tenor Alexander Gordon complained about the manner of Handel’s accompaniments and threatened to jump on the maestro’s harpsichord. The composer reputedly retorted: "Oh! Let me know when you will do that and I will advertise it. For I am sure more people will come to see you jump than to hear you sing".
  • HG edition: 67
  • HHA edition: II/13

HWV 17: Giulio Cesare in Egitto

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Nicola Francesco Haym, after Giacamo Francesco Bussani (Venice, 1677 - music by Antonio Sartorio) and a revised version (Milan, 1685)
  • Completed score: Summer 1723; Handel did not provide the exact date of completion, but wrote only "Anno 1723"; he seems to have carried out at least 7 stages of substantial revision to the score before the opera's first performance.
  • First performance: 20 February 1724, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (13 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Giulio Cesare: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Cleopatra: Francesca Cuzzoni (soprano)
    • Sesto: Margherita Durastanti (soprano)
    • Cornelia: Anastasia Robinson (contralto)
    • Tolomeo: Gaetano Berenstadt (castrato)
    • Nireno: Giuseppe Bigonzi (castrato)
    • Achilla: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
    • Curio: John Lagarde (bass)
  • Handel's revivals: 1725 (10 performances; included 4 new arias and the part of Sesto was revised for the tenor Francesco Borosini), 1730 (9 performances; included 2 new arias for the soprano Anna Maria Strada del Pò), 1732 (4 performances)
  • Notes: Handel's first major composition written after moving into his house at 25 Brook Street. A heavily abridged and bowdlerized German version produced by Oskar Hagen at Göttingen in 1922 was one of the significant early events of the 20th century Handel opera renaissance; the first uncut performance with all of the voices at the correct pitch and sung in Italian took place in 1977 at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham.
  • HG edition: 68
  • HHA edition: II/14

HWV 18: Tamerlano

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Nicola Haym, after Agostino Piovene (Venice, 1711 - music by Gasparini) and a revised version (Reggio Emilia, 1719 - also music by Gasparini); Piovene's libretto modelled after Jacques Pradon's play Tamerlan, ou la Mort de Bajazet (1675)
  • Completed score: dated 23 July 1724 but extensively rewritten before the first performance
  • First performance: 31 October 1724, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (9 performances; another 3 performances at the end of the season, May 1725)
  • Original cast:
    • Bajazet: Francesco Borosini (tenor)
    • Asteria: Francesca Cuzzoni (soprano)
    • Andronico: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Tamerlano: Andrea Pacini (castrato)
    • Irene: Anna Dotti (contralto)
    • Leone: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
  • Handel's revival: 1731 (3 performances); the version performed was unusually faithful to the original 1724 first performance, the only notable changes being abridged recitatives and a new aria for the bass Montagnana (taken from Riccardo primo).
  • Notes: One of Handel's most intense tragedies, and an opera over which he took an astonishing amount of trouble concerning musicodramatic values, it has been very rare for modern performers to place their complete trust in the composer's carefully refined first performance version; almost all commercial recordings misrepresent the composer's intentions and mix together rejected compositional material and schemes with the finished version of the work (the only recording to get the text absolutely correct is conducted by George Petrou).
  • HG edition: 69
  • HHA edition: II/15

HWV 19: Rodelinda, regina de' Langobardi

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Nicola Haym, after Antonio Salvi (Pratolino, near Florence, 1710 - music by Giacomo Antonio Perti), whose sources were Pierre Corneille's play Pertharite, roi des Lombards (Paris, 1652) and Gesta Langobardorum by the historian Paulus Diaconus (c.720-99)
  • Completed score: 20 January 1725
  • First performance: 13 February 1725, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (14 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Rodelinda: Francesca Cuzzoni (soprano)
    • Bertarido: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Grimoaldo: Francesco Borosini (tenor)
    • Eduige: Anna Vicenza Dotti (contralto)
    • Unulfo: Andrea Pacini (castrato)
    • Garibaldo: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
  • Handel's revivals: 18 December 1725 (8 performances; included 4 new arias and duet), 1731 (8 performances; included four numbers from other operas)
  • Notes: A heavily abridged and bowdlerized German version produced by Oskar Hagen at Göttingen in 1920 was the first Handel opera production of the 20th century
  • HG edition: 70
  • HHA edition: II/16

HWV 20: Scipione [Publio Cornelio Scipione]

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Paolo Rolli, after Antonio Salvi (Livorno, 1704 - composer unknown, production sponsored by Prince Ferdinando de' Medici)
  • Completed score: 2 March 1726
  • First performance: 12 March 1726, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (13 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Publio Cornelio Scipione: Antonio Baldi (castrato)
    • Lucejo: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Berenice: Francesca Cuzzoni (soprano)
    • Lelio: Luigi Antinori (tenor)
    • Ernando: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
    • Armira: Livia Costantini (soprano)
  • Handel's revival: 1730 (6 performances; Handel comprehensively adapted the score to fit the available cast, adding 13 numbers including 11 taken from other operas and 2 newly composed arias for the tenor Fabri in the title-role)
  • Notes: "Both Rolli's libretto and Handel's music were written quickly to fill a gap in the 1725–6 season caused by the delayed arrival in London of
    Faustina Bordoni, for whom Handel was already composing Alessandro (performed later that spring)." (Robert Ketterer, 'Scipione', The Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia)
  • HG edition: 71
  • HHA edition: II/17

HWV 21: Alessandro

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Paolo Rolli, after Ortensio Mauro's La superbia d'Alessandro (Hanover, 1690; also revised version Il zelo di Leonato, Hanover, 1691 - music by Agostino Steffani)
  • Completed score: 11 April 1726
  • First performance: 5 May 1726, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (13 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Alessandro: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Rossane: Faustina Bordoni (soprano)
    • Lisaura: Francesca Cuzzoni (soprano)
    • Tassile: Antonio Baldi (castrato)
    • Clito: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
    • Leonato: Luigi Antinori (tenor)
    • Cleone: Anna Dotti (contralto)
  • Handel's revivals: 1727 (at least 4 performances; roles of Leonata and Cleone possibly cut), 1732 (6 performances)
  • Notes: Handel probably composed about two-thirds of the opera before setting it aside to compose Scipione instead (HWV 20); after completing Scipione, Handel probably composed Act III of Alessandro. During the first run of performances he wrote two substitute arias for Faustina Bordoni.
    An arrangement of the opera by Lampugnani retitled Rossane was performed in three seasons during the 1740s by the 'Middlesex' opera company (named after Lord Middlesex) ().
  • HG edition: 72
  • HHA edition: II/18

HWV 22: Admeto, re di Tessaglia

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: adapted from Ortensio Mauro's L'Alceste (Hanover, 1681 - music by Matthio Trento), which had been modelled after Aurelio Aureli's L'Antigona delusa da Alceste (Venice, 1660 - music by Pietro Andrea Ziani)
  • Completed score: 10 November 1726 (Handel's autograph is lost; date of completion was added by Charles Jennens to his manuscript copy)
  • First performance: 31 January 1727, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (19 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Admeto: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Alceste: Faustina Bordoni (soprano)
    • Antigona: Francesca Cuzzoni (soprano)
    • Ercole: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
    • Orindo: Anna Dotti (contralto)
    • Trasimede: Antonio Baldi (castrato)
    • Meraspe: Giovanni Battista Palmerini (bass)
  • Handel's revivals: 30 September 1727 (6 performances); 1728 (3 performances; character of Orindo changed gender to Orinda, and acquired a new aria), 1731 (6 performances; Orindo/Orinda cut, 3 new arias added)
  • Notes: Handel's autograph manuscript and performing scores are lost; the earliest surviving complete manuscript source is the Malmesbury Collection copy that belonged to Handel's ardent champion Elizabeth Legh. A benefit performance for Faustina on 7 March 1727 included new arias. A heavily altered version performed under the direction of Francesco Vanneschi at the King's Theatre on 12 March 1754 (5 performances; apparently without the composer's involvement) was the last staged performance of any Handel opera until the 20th century (see HWV 19).
  • HG edition: 73
  • HHA edition: II/19

HWV 23: Riccardo Primo, re d'Inghilterra

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Paolo Rolli, after Francesco Briani's Isacio tiranno (Venice, 1710 - music by Antonio Lotti)
  • Completed score: 16 May 1727
  • First performance: 11 November 1727, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (11 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Riccardo: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Costanza: Francesca Cuzzoni (soprano)
    • Pulcheria: Faustina Bordoni (soprano)
    • Isacio: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
    • Oronte: Antonio Baldi (castrato)
    • Berardo: Giovanni Battista Palmerini (bass)
  • Notes: Handel's only opera to present a story based on an English monarch was his first major compositional project after his naturalization as a British citizen (February 1727). Riccardo primo may have been initially intended as the last opera of the 1726-7 season, but the King's Theatre's season closed prematurely because a riot broke out during a performance of Bononcini's Astianatte on 6 June 1727 and all of London's theatres were closed when George I died on his way to Hanover on 11 June. Whilst preparing the opera for its eventual first performance the following season, Rolli and Handel drastically revised the opera, not only to introduce stronger patriotic English elements in the libretto to entertain the new King George II, but also because the departure of the alto Anna Dotti from the Royal Academy of Music's company enforced the removal of the part of the Bohemian prince Corrado (an ally of Richard I). Handel never revived the opera.
  • HG edition: 74
  • HHA edition: II/20

HWV 24: Siroe, re di Persia

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Nicola Haym, after Pietro Metastasio's libretto revised by the author for Naples in 1727 (music by Domenico Sarri)
  • Completed score: 5 February 1728
  • First performance: 17 February 1728, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (18 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Siroe: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Emira: Faustina Bordoni (soprano)
    • Laodice: Francesca Cuzzoni (soprano)
    • Cosroe: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
    • Medarse: Antonio Baldi (castrato)
    • Arasse: Giovanni Battista Palmerini (bass)
  • Notes: Handel commenced composing Siroe after abandoning work on a setting of Nicolò Beregan's libretto Genserico (Venice, 1669 - music by Antonio Cesti); all six of the unused arias were incorporated into Siroe (although one of them was omitted before the first performance). He never revived the opera.
  • HG edition: 75
  • HHA edition: II/21

HWV 25: Tolomeo, re d'Egitto

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Nicola Francesco Haym, after Carlo Sigismondo Capece's Tolomeo et Alessandro (Rome, 1711 - music by Domenico Scarlatti)
  • Completed score: 19 April 1728
  • First performance: 30 April 1728, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (7 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Tolomeo: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Seleuce: Francesca Cuzzoni (soprano)
    • Elisa: Faustina Bordoni (soprano)
    • Alessandro: Antonio Baldi (castrato)
    • Araspe: Giuseppe Maria Boschi (bass)
  • Handel's revivals: 1730 (7 performances; 12 numbers replaced by music from earlier Royal Academy operas), 1733 (4 performances)
  • Notes: Handel's last opera for the Royal Academy of Music; the opera company dissolved shortly afterwards. Alessandro's cavatina 'Non lo dirò col labbro' has become popular in Arthur Somervell's English arrangement 'Silent Worship' (1928).
  • HG edition: 76
  • HHA edition: II/22

HWV 26: Lotario

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous (perhaps Giacomo Rossi?), after Antonio Salvi's Adelaide (revised version, Venice, 1729 - music by Giuseppe Maria Orlandini)
  • Completed score: 16 November 1729
  • First performance: 2 December 1729, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (9 or 10 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Adelaide: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Lotario: Antonio Bernacchi (castrato)
    • Matilde: Antonia Maria Merighi (contralto)
    • Idelberto: Francesca Bertolli (contralto)
    • Berengario: Annibale Pio Fabri (tenor)
    • Clodomiro: Johann Gottfried Riemschneider (bass)
  • Notes: Handel's first opera for the new so-called 'Second Academy'; he had probably attended Orlandini's Adelaide in Venice while recruiting new singers. The title-character's name was changed to Lotario from Ottone during the composition process, presumably to avoid confusion with Handel's earlier opera Ottone (HWV 15). Lotario was the first opera in which Handel used orchestral sinfonias to introduce Acts II and III; he never revived the opera, but used 13 of its arias in revivals of other operas during the next few seasons.
  • HG edition: 77
  • HHA edition: II/23

HWV 27: Partenope

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation of Silvio Stampiglia's La Partenope (1708 revised version, Venice - music by Antonio Caldara)
  • Completed score: 12 February 1730
  • First performance: 24 February 1730, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (7 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Partenope: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Arsace: Antonio Maria Bernacchi (castrato)
    • Rosmira: Antonia Maria Merighi (contralto)
    • Armindo: Francesca Bertolli (contralto)
    • Emilio: Annibale Pio Fabri (tenor)
    • Ormonte: Johann Gottfried Riemschneider (bass)
  • Handel's revivals: 12 December 1730 (7 performances; the role of Arsace was adapted for Senesino, including the substitution of Partenope's last aria for a new aria for Arsace in the final scene), 1737 (4 performances; heavily cut and several arias transferred to different characters).
  • Notes: Handel probably attended Caldara's Partenope at Venice in 1708; he was also familiar with the music of Vinci's setting (La Rosmira fedele, Venice, 1725) but made no use of it in his own version. Owen Swiney heard a rumour from Senesino that the Royal Academy was considering Stampiglia's libretto as a suitable project in 1726, to which the agent complained "it is the very worst book (excepting one) that I ever read in my whole life: Signor Stampiglia (the author of it) endeavours to be humourous and witty, in it: If he succeeded in his attempt, on any stage in Italy, ’twas meerly, from a depravity of Taste in his audience – but I am very sure that ’twill be received with contempt in England" (letter to the Duke of Richmond, 2/13 August 1726). It seems that Handel disagreed, and in 1959 Edward J. Dent called it "the best libretto that Handel ever set."
  • HG edition: 78
  • HHA edition: II/24

HWV 28: Poro, re dell'Indie

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation of Pietro Metastasio's Alessandro nell'Indie (Rome, 1729 - music by Leonardo Vinci)
  • Completed score: 16 January 1731
  • First performance: 2 February 1731, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (14 or 16 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Poro: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Cleofide: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Alessandro: Annibale Pio Fabri (tenor)
    • Erissena: Antonia Maria Merighi (contralto)
    • Gandarte: Francesca Bertolli (contralto)
    • Timagene: Giovanni Giuseppe Commano (bass)
  • Handel's revivals: 23 November 1731 (4 performances; 3 arias added for Montagnana as Timagene taken from old operas), 1736 (Covent Garden, 4 performances)
  • Notes: Handel's only opera to mention elephants (they are also mentioned in Judas Maccabaeus). "With very few exceptions the arias rank amongst Handel's finest work, widely varied in style and often richly scored." (Graham Cummings, 'Poro', Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia)
  • HG edition: 79
  • HHA edition: II/25

HWV 29: Ezio

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation of Pietro Metastasio's libretto (Rome, 1728 - music by Pietro Auletta), which might have been collected by Handel during his trip to Italy in 1729
  • Completed score: probably early January 1732 (last page of the final chorus in the autograph score, on which Handel would have written the date of completion, is lost)
  • First performance: 15 January 1732, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (5 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Ezio: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Fulvia: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Valentiniano: Anna Bagnolesi (contralto)
    • Onoria: Francesca Bertolli (contralto)
    • Massimo: Giovanni Battista Pinacci (tenor)
    • Varo: Antonio Montagnana (bass)
  • Notes: Handel commenced his third and last setting of libretti by the famous poet Metastasio after abandoning work on the unfinished opera Titus l'Empereur. "One of Handel's finest serious operas, Ezio was one of his worst failures at the box office. Performed only five times during its first run, it was probably an expensive disaster: ... Ezio was not performed again until a German adaptation was staged at Göttingen in 1926. The opera is not often staged, but it was phenomenally popular in the former East Germany, where there were at least 362 performances of 23 different revivals between 1954 and 1983." (David Vickers, 'Ezio', Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia)
  • HG edition: 80
  • HHA edition: II/26

HWV 30: Sosarme, re di Media

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation of Antonio Salvi's Dionisio, re di Portogallo (Pratolino, near Florence, 1707 - music by Giacomo Antonio Perti; Handel may have attended this production, which took place only a few weeks before his own Rodrigo was produced in Florence)
  • Completed score: 4 February 1732
  • First performance: 15 February 1732, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (11 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Sosarme: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Elmira: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Haliate: Giovanni Battista Pinacci (tenor)
    • Erenice: Anna Bagnolesi (contralto)
    • Melo: Francesca Bertolli (contralto)
    • Altomaro: Antonio Montagnana (bass)
    • Argone: Antonio Gualandi (castrato)
  • Handel's revival: 1734 (3 performances)
  • Notes: "The first page of the autograph manuscript reveals that the opera was initially called Fernando, re di Castiglia and was set in Portugal. After completing approximately two-thirds of the score, Handel changed its title, location and most of the characters' names, and revised Acts I and II. The character names from Fernando were replaced by the names of their Sosarme alter egos: Dionisio (Dinis, or Dionysius, King of Portugal from 1279 to 1325 and founder of the University of Coimbra) was changed to Haliate, his illegitimate son Sancio became Melo, and his disgruntled heir Alfonso became Argone. The King's daughter Elvida became Elmira, and her lover Fernando (King of Castile from 1295 to 1312) became Sosarme. Queen Isabella, based on a historical figure canonised in 1626, became Erenice. Only the villain Altomaro retained his original name. Handel's motivation for making these changes is obscure, but Winton Dean suggested that it might have been done to avoid the libretto causing offence to the Portuguese, who were Britian's oldest political allies." (David Vickers, 'Sosarme', Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia)
  • HG edition: 81
  • HHA edition: II/27

HWV 31: Orlando

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation of Carlo Sigismondo Capece's L'Orlando (Rome, 1711 - music by Domenico Scarlatti), which was modelled upon Cantos 23-4 of Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem Orlando furioso (third edition by the author published in 1532)
  • Completed score: 20 November 1732
  • First performance: 27 January 1733, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (10 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Orlando: Francesco Bernardi, called "Senesino" (castrato)
    • Angelica: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Medoro: Francesca Bertolli (contralto)
    • Dorinda: Celeste Gismondi (soprano)
    • Zoroastro: Antonio Montagnana (bass)
  • Notes: Handel reused two arias were reused in the pasticcio Alessandro Severo, but Orlando was not performed again until its first modern revival at Halle in 1922 (in a bowdlerized German arrangement). It was the last of Handel's operas to feature a part written for Senesino, prior to the defection of all singers except Strada to the Opera of the Nobility (a rival opera company founded in June 1733). Unusually, the entire action is set in the open air, and the fusion of superb music and engaging drama certainly constitutes one of Handel's finest operatic masterpieces. "Orlando makes a special appeal to modern sensibility with its concentration on the psychological states of characters in a fantasy world lending itself to reinterpretation; it is also a splendid exemplar of what the Baroque theatre could achieve in allying stage-craft to drama expressed through music." (Anthony Hicks, 'Orlando (ii)', New Grove Dictionary of Opera)
  • HG edition: 82
  • HHA edition: II/28

HWV 32: Arianna in Creta

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation based principally on a revised version of a libretto by Pietro Pariati (Arianna e Teseo, Rome, 1729 - music by Leonardo Leo), but also drawing some material from another revised version used for a pasticcio (Naples, 1721)
  • Completed score: dated 5 October 1733 but considerably revised before the first performance
  • First performance: 26 January 1734, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (16 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Arianna: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Teseo: Giovanni Carestini (castrato)
    • Carilda: Maria Caterina Negri (contralto)
    • Alceste: Carlo Scalzi (castrato)
    • Tauride: Margherita Durastanti (soprano)
    • Minos: Gustavus Waltz (bass)
  • Handel's revival: 27 November 1734 (Covent Garden, 5 performances; included ballets for Marie Sallé and her dancers)
  • Notes: Handel's first draft was completed on 5 October 1733, but he substantially altered the opera after the arrival in London of the new leading castrato Carestini. The opera also featured Durastanti, making a brief swansong on the London stage; she had first sung for Handel in Rome in 1707, and he granted her character Tauride the opera's oustanding showstopper 'Qual leon'. "It is likely that rumours about Handel setting Arianna in Creta reached the Opera of the Nobility, whose music director Nicola Porpora had already composed a setting of Pariati's libretto (Venice, 1727). Handel's competitors responded by producing their own 'Arianna' opera (Arianna in Nasso, libretto by Paolo Rolli) at Lincoln's Inn Fields on 29 December 1733, almost a month before Arianna in Creta was premiered at the King's Theatre" (David Vickers, 'Arianna in Creta', Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia)
  • HG edition: 83
  • HHA edition: II/29

HWV 33: Ariodante

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation of Antonio Salvi's Ginevra principessa di Scozia (Pratolino, near Florence, 1708 - music by Giacomo Antonio Perti; Handel may have attended this production), which was based on incidents from Cantos 4-6 of Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem Orlando furioso (third edition by the author published in 1532)
  • Completed score: dated 24 October 1734 but significantly revised before the first performance
  • First performance: 8 January 1735, Covent Garden Theatre, London (11 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Ariodante: Giovanni Carestini (castrato)
    • Ginevra: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Dalinda: Cecilia Young (soprano)
    • Lurcanio: John Beard (tenor)
    • Polinesso: Maria Caterina Negri (contralto)
    • Il Re di Scozia (King of Scotland): Gustavus Waltz (bass)
    • Odoardo: Mr Stoppelaer (tenor)
  • Handel's revival: 1736 (2 performances; title-part radically altered for the castrato Conti, who sang arias he had brought with him from Italy)
  • Notes: Handel's first original work written for John Rich's recently build Covent Garden Theatre. Before commencing work on Act III Handel altered Lurcanio from a castrato part to the tenor clef for the young English singer John Beard (who had recently made his debut for Handel in the November 1734 revival of Il pastor fido). Between completing the score on 24 October and the first performance, Handel recomposed the role of Dalinda for the English soprano Cecilia Young (later Mrs Arne) and prepared several different schemes for the ballets to be performed by Marie Sallé and her dancers at the end of each act. "Ariodante is one of Handel’s most appealing operas: the story is romantic and unusually straightforward, and the characters are portrayed with warm humanity. It is also one of the greatest: the music is of consistently high quality, making considerable technical demands on the singers, and covers a remarkable range of emotional expression. Despite the expansiveness there is always a sense of intimacy, partly suggested by the general modesty of the scoring ... and by minor deviations from the strict pattern of recitatives and da capo arias. ... Dramatic tension is compellingly maintained. If Ariodante has not achieved the place in the modern repertory which its attractiveness would seem to justify, the reasons are largely practical: the length of the work, the presence of the dance episodes and the need for singers of special quality. If these demands are met, the opera reveals itself as an outstanding example of Baroque musical drama." (Anthony Hicks, 'Ariodante', New Grove Dictionary of Opera)
  • HG edition: 85
  • HHA edition: II/32

HWV 34: Alcina

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation of the anonymous libretto L'Isola d'Alcina (Rome, 1728 - music by Riccardo Broschi), which was based on incidents from Cantos 6-7 of Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem Orlando furioso (third edition by the author published in 1532)
  • Completed score: 8 April 1735
  • First performance: 16 April 1735, Covent Garden Theatre, London (18 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Alcina: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Morgana: Cecilia Young [later Mrs Arne] (soprano)
    • Ruggiero: Giovanni Carestini (castrato)
    • Bradamante: Maria Caterina Negri (contralto)
    • Oronte: John Beard (tenor)
    • Melisso: Gustavus Waltz (bass)
    • Oberto: William Savage (boy soprano)
  • Handel's revivals: 1736-7 season (5 performances; on these occasions Morgana's 'Tornami a vagheggiar' was transferred to Strada in the title-role)
  • Notes: After attending the first rehearsal of Alcina, which took place in Handel's house on Brook Street, Handel's staunch supporter Mary Pendarves (later Delany) wrote "I think it the best he ever made, but I have thought so of so many, that I will not say positively ’tis the finest, but ’tis so fine I have not words to describe it. Strada has a whole scene of charming recitative - there are a thousand beauties. Whilst Mr. Handel was playing his part I could not help thinking him a necromancer in the midst of his own enchantments." (letter to her mother, 12 April 1735). Like all of Handel's other operas, Alcina fell almost entirely into oblivion within his lifetime. Charles Burney’s study of the autograph score led him to speculate that "Upon the whole, if any one of Handel’s dramatic works should be brought on the stage, entire, without a change or mixture of airs from his other operas, it seems as if this would well sustain such a revival." Most modern Handelians would agree that Alcina is one of the composer's most compelling, fascinating and enjoyable operas.
  • HG edition: 86
  • HHA edition: II/33

HWV 35: Atalanta

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation of Belisario Valeriani's La caccia in Etolia (Ferrara, 1715); Handel might also have known a different libretto by Ortensio Mauro (Le rivali concordi, Hanover, 1693 - music by Agostino Steffani)
  • Completed score: 22 April 1736
  • First performance: 12 May 1736, Covent Garden Theatre, London (8 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Atalanta: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Meleagro: Gioacchino Conti (castrato)
    • Irene: Maria Caterina Negri (contralto)
    • Aminta: John Beard (tenor)
    • Nicandro: Gustavus Waltz (bass)
    • Mercurio: Henry Reinhold (bass)
  • Handel's revival: 20 November 1736 (2 performances)
  • Notes: Atalanta was produced to publicly celebrate the recent marriage of Frederick, Prince of Wales, to Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha; the newly-weds did not attend. Handel made some significant revisions before the first performance, and the licenza finale featured an elaborate indoor fireworks display. John Walsh's subscription score of music from Atalanta, receiving 143 subscribers for 181 copies, was the most successful printed edition of Handel's operatic music during the composer's lifetime.
  • HG edition: 87
  • HHA edition: II/34

HWV 36: Arminio

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaption of a libretto by Antonio Salvi (*, 1703 - music by Alessandro Scarlatti), whose model was Jean Galbert de Campistron's tragedy Arminius (1684)
  • Completed score: 14 October 1736
  • First performance: 12 January 1737, Covent Garden Theatre, London (6 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Arminio: Domenico Annibali (castrato)
    • Tusnelda: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Sigismondo: Gioacchino Conti (castrato)
    • Ramise: Francesca Bertolli (contralto)
    • Varo: John Beard (tenor)
    • Segeste: Henry Reinhold (bass)
    • Tullio: Maria Caterina Negri (contralto)
  • Notes: Between completing the score on 14 October 1736 and the first performance Handel added four arias and altered the part of Tullio from bass to alto. Several numbers were shortened during the run of performances, but the opera proved to be unpopular; Lord Shaftesbury found it "rather grave but correct and labour'd to the highest degree & is a favourite one with Handel. . . . But I fear 'twill not be acted very long. The Town dont much admire it.' Handel never revived the opera but he did use some of its arias in the pasticcios Alessandro Severo and Giove in Argo, and used two arias in a bilingual revival of Semele in December 1744.
  • HG edition: 89
  • HHA edition: II/35

HWV 37: Giustino

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptaion of a libretto by Nicolò Beregan revised by Pietro Pariati (Venice, 1724 - music by Vivaldi)
  • Completed score: 20 October 1736; Handel drafted much of Giustino before transferring his attention to the composition of Arminio (HWV 46), after which he returned to completing Giustino
  • First performance: 16 February 1737, Covent Garden Theatre, London (9 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Giustino: Domenico Annibali (castrato)
    • Anastasio: Gioacchino Conti (castrato)
    • Arianna: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Leocasta: Francesca Bertolli (contralto)
    • Amanzio: Maria Caterina Negri (contralto)
    • Vitaliano: John Beard (tenor)
    • Polidarte: Henry Reinhold (bass)
    • La Fortuna: William Savage (boy soprano)
  • Notes:The most richly scored of the three new operas written for the 1736-7 season, and also marginally the most successful - although Handel reputedly enjoyed the good-natured satirical references to Giustino made in Carey and Lampe's comic parody The Dragon of Wantley (staged in the same theatre in October 1737); Handel never revived the opera but reused a lot of it in the pasticcio Alessandro Severo and two arias in the bilingual December 1744 revival of Semele.
  • HG edition: 88
  • HHA edition: II/36

HWV 38: Berenice, regina d'Egitto

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation of a libretto by Antonio Salvi (Pratolino, near Florence, 1709 - music by Giacomo Antonio Perti; Handel might have seen this production)
  • Composed: 27 January 1737
  • First performance: 18 May 1737, Covent Garden Theatre, London (3 performances; a fourth may have taken place but lacks documentary evidence)
  • Original cast:
    • Berenice: Anna Maria Strada del Pò (soprano)
    • Demetrio: Domenico Annibali (castrato)
    • Alessandro: Gioacchino Conti (castrato)
    • Selene: Francesca Bertolli (contralto)
    • Arsace: Maria Caterina Negri (contralto)
    • Fabio: John Beard (tenor)
    • Aristobolo: Henry Reinhold (bass)
  • Notes: Berenice was completed months in advance of a serious illness that blighted Handel during the late spring and early summer of 1737. On 26 April 1737 the Earl of Shaftesbury wrote to James Harris: "I was near an hour with Handel yesterday[;] he is in no danger upon the whole though I fear[,] or am rather too certain[,] he will loose a great part of his execution so as to prevent his ever playing any more concertos on the organ. He submitts to discipline very patiently & I really believe will be orderly for the time to come[,] that this unhappy seizure may possibly at last be the occasion of prolonging his life. Handel is in excellent spirits & is exceeding thankfull for his disorder[,] which is rhumatick palsie[,] did not attack him till he had done writing." On 12 May the Earl of Shaftesbury attended a rehearsal of Berenice, afterwards reporting to Harris that "Mr Handel is better though not well enough to play the harpsichord himself[,] which young Smith is to do for him." Handel suffered a relapse soon afterwards, and he could not have directed any of the performances of Berenice. He never revived the opera, but it was performed at Brunswick in 1743 (an arrangement by Georg Caspar Schürmann); the first modern revival took place at the University of Keele in 1985.
  • HG edition: 90
  • HHA edition: II/37

HWV 39: Faramondo

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation of a libretto by Apostolo Zeno (revised version, Rome, 1720 - music by Francesco Gasparini)
  • Completed score: 24 December 1737
  • First performance: 3 January 1738, King's Theare, Haymarket, London (8 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Faramondo: Gaetano Majorano, called "Caffarelli" (castrato)
    • Clotilde: Elisabeth Duparc, called "La Francesina" (soprano)
    • Rosimonda: Maria Antonia Marchesini (alto)
    • Gustavo: Antonio Montagnana (bass)
    • Adolfo: Margherita Chimenti (soprano)
    • Gernando: Antonia Maria Merighi (contralto)
    • Teobaldo: Antonio Lottini (bass)
    • Childerico: William Savage (boy soprano)
  • Notes: Composed in haste after Handel's return from a successful 'cure' at Aix-la-Chapelle, Faramondo was the first of two operas Handel provided for the King's Theatre opera company during the 1737-8 season, which was formed from the remants of the two former rival opera companies (the bankrupt Opera of the Nobility and, to a much lesser extent, Handel's Covent Garden company). By the last performance Handel cut the roles of Teobaldo and Childerico; the opera was never revived.
  • HG edition: 91
  • HHA edition: II/38

HWV 40: Serse [English title: "Xerxes"]

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation of a libretto by Silvio Stampiglia (Rome, 1694 - music by Giovanni Bononcini; his first opera), which was loosely modelled upon Nicolò Minato's Il Xerse (Venice, 1654 - music by Pier Francesco Cavalli); Handel certainly knew Bononcini's score and borrowed material from it in his own setting.
  • Completed score: 14 February 1738
  • First performance: 15 April 1738, King's Theatre, Haymarket, London (5 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Serse: Gaetano Majorano, called "Caffarelli" (castrato)
    • Arsamene: Maria Antonia Marchesini (alto)
    • Romilda: Elisabeth Duparc, called "La Francesina" (soprano)
    • Atalanta: Margherita Chimenti (soprano)
    • Amastre: Antonia Maria Merighi (contralto)
    • Ariodate: Antonio Montagnana (bass)
    • Elviro: Antonio Lottini (bass)
  • Notes: A wonderful comic opera which is unjustly eclipsed by the fame of its first aria 'Ombra mai fù' (usually nicknamed "Handel's Largo", its tempo marking is actually larghetto). Handel began writing his second and last opera provided by Handel for the makeshift King's Theatre opera company's 1737-8 season only two days after completing Faramondo. Two days after the final performance, the Earl of Shaftesbury reported to James Harris that Serse was 'beyond all doubt a fine composition', but that 'The singers perform it very indifferently which is a great disadvantage to it'. The opera was not performed again until 1924, since when it has rightly become one of Handel's best loved operas. However, in the 1780s Charles Burney argued that Serse was one of Handel's worst operas, considered its score full of "feeble writing", and expressed intense dislike for its "mixture of tragic-comedy and buffoonery". This harsh verdict may astonish operagoers today who feel greater affinity with Winton Dean's judgment that Handel's "treatment of character and incident carries conviction on all levels", and that Serse "springs to palpitating life in the theatre." (Dean, Handel's Operas, 1726-1741)
  • HG edition: 92
  • HHA edition: II/39

HWV 41: Imeneo

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: anonymous adaptation expanded from a two-part componimento dramatico by Silvio Stampiglia (Naples, 1723 - music by Nicolò Porpora)
  • Completed score: eventually completed on 10 October 1740, but initially drafted 9-20 September 1738 (between the composition of the oratorios Saul and Israel in Egypt). Handel then put aside Imeneo, without having set most of the recitatives to music, and then returned to it two years later to rewrite it drastically for a cast significantly different to that originally envisaged.
  • First performance: 22 November 1740, Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, London (2 performances)
  • Original cast:
    • Imeneo: William Savage (bass)
    • Tirinto: Giovanni Battista Andreoni (castrato)
    • Rosmene: Elisabeth Duparc, called "La Francesina" (soprano)
    • Clomiri: Miss Edwards (soprano)
    • Argenio: Henry Reinhold (bass)
  • Handel's revival: Dublin 1742 (2 performances; unstaged, adapted and advertised as Hymen, a Serenata)
  • Notes: The Dublin concert performances were Handel's last ever performances of an Italian operatic work. "The Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre may have
    been particularly suited to the intimate drama of Imeneo, which required only one stage setting, 'A Pleasant Garden'." (Donald Burrows, 'Imeneo', Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia)
  • HG edition: 93
  • HHA edition: II/40

HWV 42: Deidamia

  • Genre: Opera
  • Libretto: Paolo Rolli
  • Completed score: 20 November 1740
  • First performance: 10 January 1741, Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, London (3 performances, the last of which took place at the 'Little Theatre' in the Haymarket)
  • Original cast:
    • Deidamia: Elisabeth Duparc, called "La Francesina" (soprano)
    • Ulisse: Giovanni Battista Andreoni (castrato)
    • Achille: Miss Edwards (soprano)
    • Nerea: Maria Monza (soprano)
    • Fenice: William Savage (bass)
    • Licomede: Henry Reinhold (bass)
  • Note: Handel's final opera, and the last to be performed with stage action under his own musical direction.
  • HG edition: 94
  • HHA edition: II/41

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