Early Handel Mini-Opera
Please join us for this rare opportunity to hear George Frederick Handel’s work as a young composer of 23 years of age on February 12, 2016 at 8pm, FREE ADMISSION with suggested $10 donation to the church organ fund, Saint Michael’s Second Presbyterian Church, West 96th Street at Central Park West in NYC.
The Stony Brook Opera Workshop joins with the Stony Brook Baroque Players to present a staged production of Handel’s little-known jewel O Come Chiare e Belle with stage direction by Catherine Turocy for three singers and small Baroque orchestra. This hour long serenata depicts Rome’s return to glory. Arthur Haas conducts the Stony Brook Opera cast and Stony Brook Baroque Players.
Repeat Performance: February 14 2016, 3:00 PM Recital Hall | Staller Center for the ArtsTickets: $10/$5
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From the liner notes of Hyperion Records: “O come chiare e belle is an ‘occasional’ piece directly connected with Ruspoli’s involvement in the War of the Spanish Succession. Pope Clement XI had accepted the Bourbon claimant, Philip V, as King of Spain, thereby rejecting the claim of the Habsburg Archduke Charles and drawing upon himself the wrath of Charles’s brother, the Emperor Joseph I of Austria. In June 1707 Imperial troops secured the kingdom of Naples for the Habsburg cause and, as Milan was already under Austrian rule, the Pope was put into a highly vulnerable position. In May 1708 Imperial troops occupied the Papal town of Comacchio on the Adriatic coast, threatening the annexation of nearby Ferrara and other Papal territories. The Pope protested without effect. By August he was left with no choice but to raise his own troops to defend Ferrara and, if possible, regain Comacchio. The ambitious Ruspoli promptly offered assistance by forming a regiment of 1200 men. Ferrara was duly defended (though Comacchio remained occupied until the end of the war) and Ruspoli received his hoped-for reward by gaining the title of Prince of Cerveteri in February 1709.
Handel’s cantata was performed on 9 September 1708 and celebrates the moment when Ruspoli offered to come to the Pope’s aid. There are three characters. The shepherd Olinto (soprano) represents Ruspoli himself (Olinto was his ‘Arcadian’ pseudonym); the river Tiber (alto) represents Rome, and the allegorical character of Glory (soprano) appears to inspire Rome to renew her ancient greatness. In the imagery of the text this renewal is to be accomplished under the guidance of a ‘clement star’ who is, of course, Pope Clement himself. There are probably several topical allusions which are now obscure, but it may be noted that the references to ‘alba’ (‘dawn’) also allude to Clement (whose family name was Albani) and the rivers Ister and Orontes represent the Austrian and Turkish Empires. (‘Ister’ is the classical name for the Danube; the Orontes was the chief river of Syria. Though Turkey was not directly involved in the war at this time she was a perennial enemy of the Papacy.) The mention of the ‘lance of Jupiter united with Mars’, coupled with the statement that Urania and Clio (the muses of astronomy and history) cannot lie, suggests that there was a conjunction of the two planets at this time, but there was none between July 1707 and September 1709.
The music is full of spirited invention. A brisk and brief opening sonata leads directly into Olinto’s first aria; the image of the waters of the Tiber shimmering in the light of the ‘clement star’ is evoked by delicate overlapping figures in the violins. The Tiber’s awakening (‘Chi mi chiama?’) is accompanied by a bass line in dotted rhythm which Handel later put to good use in Alcina, and the vigorous G minor aria that follows (‘Più non spera) was rightly rescued for Il Pastor Fido. Glory’s first utterance is, surprisingly, a slow aria with a highly embellished vocal line, gently rebukingRome for its dejected state. Brilliance returns in ‘Tornami a vagheggiar’, which marks the first appearance of the radiant tune best known from the aria in Alcina beginning with the same words. (The ritornellos were used for the aria ‘E pur bello’ in Teseo.) Olinto’s next aria refers to the alarms of war arousing Rome’s ancient heroes, but to avoid anticipating his climax Handel declines to use the obvious imagery and sets it as a formal minuet. After Glory has ecstatically praised the ‘clement star’ Olinto declares he will change his shepherd’s pipes for the trumpet of war and, with splendid effect, Handel adds a real trumpet to the score for the final aria. A brief coro for the three singers concludes.”
from notes by Anthony Hicks © 1985 for Hyperion Records.