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Notes 59.2 (2002) 442-445

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Georg Friedrich Händel. Radamisto: Opera seria in tre atti, HWV 12a . Herausgegeben von Terence Best. (Hallische Händel-Ausgabe. Ser II: Opern, Bd. 9.1.) Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1997. [Editorial policy, pref. in Ger., Eng., p. vi-xx; facsims., p. xxi-xxv; Libretto-Druck (London: Thomas Wood, 1720), p. xxvi-xlv; Ger. trans. of libretto, p. xlvi-lvii; score, 214 p.; appendix, p. 215-30; crit. report, p. 231-74. Cloth. ISMN M-006-49580-1; BA 4062. €207.07.]
Georg Friedrich Händel. Radamisto: Opera seria in tre atti, HWV 12b . Herausgegeben von Terence Best. (Hallische Händel-Ausgabe. Ser II: Opern, Bd. 9.2.) Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2000. [Editorial policy, pref. in Ger., Eng., p. vii-xviii; facsims., p. xix-xxiv; Libretto-Druck (London: Thomas Wood, 1720), p. xxv-xliv; Ger. trans. of libretto, p. xlv-lvii; score, 224 p.; appendix, p. 225-79; crit. report, p. 281-324. Cloth. ISMN M-006-49583-2; BA 4066. €196.85.]
Georg Friedrich Händel. Radamisto: Opera seria in tre atti, HWV 12b . Libretto: Nicola Francesco Haym; deutsche Übersetzung von Michael Pacholke. Klavierauszug nach dem Urtext der Hallischen Händel-Ausgabe von Michael Pacholke. Kassel: Bärenreiter, c2000. [Ensemble, 1 p.; pref. in Ger., Eng. (Terence Best), p. iv-vii; index of scenes in Ital., Ger., p. viii-xi; the version of 1721, p. xii-xiv; vocal score, 305 p. ISMN M-006-50597-5; BA 4066a. €34.90] [End Page 442]

I can picture the scene now—a college professor standing before a class of undergraduate students relates the following story. A composer has written an opera for a new opera company. The first performances are so well received that the company schedules the opera for another performance the very next season. The cast, however, changes between seasons, and the composer has to make a considerable number of alterations—transposing parts and adding or subtracting arias to suit the voices of his new cast. The opera is revived yet again the following year, and the composer makes a few more changes to the score. The last revival during the composer's lifetime is seven years later still, for which he once more adapts the work, this time to suit the needs of two prime donne. Now the conundrum: which version do the students think will be the best? They will no doubt regard the professor as if she did not have two brain cells to rub together, informing her that, of course, the first version will most closely correspond to the composer's intentions and therefore will logically be the best. If all things were equal, they could, of course, be quite correct —but all things are not always equal.

As with many new companies, the joint stock company that was the Royal Academy of Music—formed in 1719 by members of the British aristocracy to present Italian opera at the King's Theatre in London—took longer to organize than its founders envisaged. When George Frideric Handel came to write the opera Radamisto for the company's first season (with a premiere on 27 April 1720), many of the Italian virtuosos whom the Academy had wanted to employ, most notably the castrato Senesino, were not available (they would not arrive in London until September 1720). Ever the pragmatist, Handel wrote for the cast available to him, giving the title role to the most experienced singer on hand, the female soprano Margherita Durastanti. The remainder of his cast consisted of lesser Italian luminaries (Benedetto Baldassari and Caterina Galerati) and British singers (John Lagarde, Ann Turner Robinson, Anastasia Robinson, and Alexander Gordon). Baldassari was to create his own special problems for Handel. Cast as the soldier Fraarte, he complained to the board of directors that when singing opera he never portrayed anyone beneath a prince of the realm. The directors in turn told Handel, who was midway through composing the opera...


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