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One writer describes Handel as “a bruiser whose robust personality and generous physique were as renowned as his music. His delight in intrigue and gossip was matched only by his insatiable appetite for food and liquor.” To prove this point, there are accounts of a strange incident in 1704 in which Handel fought a duel with a fellow composer named Johann Mattheson, during which Mattheson almost killed Handel with his sword—saved only when he hit a button on Handel’s chest rather than the chest itself. In 1710, Handel accepted the position of Kapellmeister to George, Elector of Hanover, who was soon to be King George I of Great Britain. In 1712, Handel settled in England, where he began a time of incredible artistic output that included some of his greatest works, including Water Music and Messiah. Handel’s life was not without tragedy. He had a stroke in 1737 (at age 52) that caused temporary paralysis in his right arm, was involved in a coach crash in 1750, and had cataracts and eventually went blind after a botched eye operation in 1751 (at age 66). He continued to compose despite his blindness, and died in London at the age of 74. Since he never married, his estate was passed on to his niece Johanna Floerken. His request to be buried in Westminster Abbey was honored, and it was reported that his funeral was attended by more than 3,000 mourners. Even the great Ludwig van Beethoven praised Handel: • Go to him to learn how to achieve great effects, by such simple means. • I would bare my head and kneel at his grave. I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wish to make them better. George Frideric Handel For more information on Pittsburgh Opera's education programs, please contact: Marilyn Michalka Egan, Ph.D. Director of Education [email protected] 412-281-0912 ext 242 Pittsburgh Opera 2425 Liberty Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15222 www.pittsburghopera.org Production Photo by Tim Matheson at Vancouver Opera American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. Bayer USA Foundation The Frick Fund of the Buhl Foundation The Jack Buncher Foundation Dominion Foundation Eat ‘n Park Hospitality Group, Inc. ESB Bank First Commonwealth Financial Corporation The Grable Foundation The Hearst Foundation Hefren-Tillotson, Inc. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield The Huntington National Bank Intermediate Unit #1, Pennsylvania Department of Education Levin Furniture Martha Mack Lewis Foundation People’s Natural Gas Reed Smith LLP The Techs - MetalTech Triangle Tech Group United States Steel Corporation Study Guide to the Opera George Frideric Handel (February 23, 1685 – April 14, 1759) was born in Halle, Germany in the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti. Though Handel and Bach were born in towns only about 50 miles apart, they never Portrait of G. F. Handel by met. Handel’s father, a barberBalthasar Denner (c. 1726–1728) surgeon, wanted his son to become a lawyer, but the young Handel loved music. His father forbade him to touch any musical instruments, but stories persist that his mother smuggled a clavichord into the attic, where George would practice when his father was away. After his father died, Handel’s propensity for music drove him to find ways to pursue his musical studies and career. In 1702 he left Halle for Hamburg, where he played violin and harpsichord for the only opera company in Germany that existed outside the royal courts. Think German-English Baroque composer by Jill Leahy of early opera, oratorio, and orchestral works Music by George Frideric Handel Libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym by Jill Leahy G. F. Handel: Pittsburgh Opera Education thanks our generous supporters: Rodelinda Meet the Composer The Baroque period of music started around 1600 and ended around 1750. During this period, Shakespeare created his great tragedies (Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth), the first real orchestras came into being (including recorders, lutes, and harpsichord), and, with the Church’s loss of political control in Europe, new styles of music like the concerto, sonata, and opera flourished. Jacopo Peri composed the first opera, Daphne, in 1598; in 1607, Monteverdi composed L’Orfeo, the earliest surviving opera that is still regularly performed. Handel, who composed over 40 operas, was a larger-than-life character (literally—he was very rotund), and his music was loved, especially by London audiences. When, toward the end of his career, musical tastes moved away from the strict musical limitations of Italian opera, he stopped composing operas and turned instead to creating oratorios: large musical compositions for orchestra, choir, and soloists, generally with no costumes or props and with the texts most often dealing with sacred subjects. Oratorios by Handel include Messiah and Judas Maccabaeus. More than 25 Handel operas premiered at the King’s Theatre between 1711 and 1739. The name of the theatre changes with the gender of the monarch. The theatre first became the King's Theatre in 1714 on the accession of George I, was destroyed by fire in 1790, then rebuilt and renamed Her Majesty's Theatre in 1837. From 1901 to 1952, the theatre was known as His Majesty's Theatre; it became Her Majesty's on the accession of Elizabeth II. Since 1986, The Phantom of the Opera has been playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre, which has a capacity of 1,216 seats. Watercolor by William Capon (1757–1827) http://www.andreas-praefcke.de/carthalia/uk/uk_london_kings_haymarket.htm The first performance of Rodelinda, regina de' Longobardi was at the King's Theatre, London, on February 13, 1725. It is an opera seria in three acts and one of the few operas with a tenor in the villain’s role. Historically, Handel wrote for specific singers, and in the original performances, the part for Bertarido was written for an alto castrato named Senesino (Francesco Bernardi), who created over 15 leading roles for Handel. It was not until the late 19th century that the Roman Catholic Church officially condemned the procedure of castration of young boys (castrati) to preserve their high voices. While Handel’s orchestral works, such as Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks, have remained popular, his operas fell out of favor for more than 200 years. The Metropolitan Opera first presented Rodelinda in 2004, and again in 2011, with Renée Fleming singing the title role. Rodelinda Synopsis Location and timeframe: Milan and the surrounding countryside, early 18th century. Prologue: Bertarido, King of Lombardy and Milan, has been attacked and deposed by Grimoaldo, an ally of his estranged brother. Bertarido vanishes, leaving Rodelinda and her son Flavio in the power of the victorious Grimoaldo. As a reward for defeating Bertarido, Grimoaldo was promised the hand of Bertarido’s sister, Eduige, giving him a legitimate claim to the throne at Milan. Eduige and Grimoaldo fell in love, but she would not marry him while mourning two brothers—one dead, one presumed so. From abroad, Bertarido sent word of his own death, intending to return to Milan in disguise to rescue his wife and son, and to escape to an anonymous life far from the vagaries of politics and the burden of government. The news of his death has devastated both Rodelinda and Eduige. Grimoaldo, intent on gaining the throne, weighs his options, counseled by two advisers—Garibaldo, his closest aide, and Unulfo, a member of Bertarido’s cabinet, who maintains intimate ties with the royal family and is the only person who knows that Bertarido still lives. Rodelinda Synopsis continued Characters of the Opera Rodelinda [roh-deh-LEEN-dah] soprano Queen of the Lombards Bertarido [bair-tah-REE-doh] mezzo-soprano Rodelinda’s husband, the King of Lombardy Grimoaldo [gree-moh-AHL-doh] Duke of Benevento, a usurper tenor Eduige [ed-WEE-jeh] mezzo-soprano Sister of Bertarido, betrothed to Grimoaldo ● Unulfo ACT I A palace in Milan Rodelinda and her son are [oo-NOOL-foh] countertenor being held in a sparsely furnished room in the palace in A nobleman, loyal friend to Bertarido Milan (Ho perduto il caro sposo). Grimoaldo enters with Eduige and his advisers and announces his wish to marry Garibaldo [gah-ree-BAHL-doh] bass-baritone Rodelinda, thereby gaining the throne. The outraged Duke of Turin, Bertarido’s closest aide Rodelinda refuses him and storms away. Eduige is appalled at Grimoaldo’s overture to Rodelinda, but ● despite the rules of mourning, offers him her hand, heart, Flavio [FLAH-vee-oh] silent role and throne. Grimoaldo, however, is still stung by her Son of Rodelinda and Bertarido previous postponements and, though still in love with her, fiercely declines Eduige’s offer. Now Garibaldo makes overtures to Eduige, hoping to gain the throne for himself (Lo farò). Eduige, furious with Grimoaldo, does not discourage him. When he is left alone, Garibaldo reveals his ambition for the throne. Bertarido arrives at the stables, where Unulfo has left a soldier’s uniform for his disguise (Dove sei). He finds in the cemetery a memorial built for him by Grimoaldo to appease those loyal to him. Bertarido yearns to see Rodelinda but knows he cannot yet reveal himself. His reunion with Unulfo is interrupted when Rodelinda brings her son to plant flowers at the memorial. Unulfo succeeds in restraining Bertarido, who wants desperately to reach out to his family. Garibaldo appears with an ultimatum from Grimoaldo, to which Bertarido must also be silent witness: either Rodelinda agrees to wed Grimoaldo, or Garibaldo kills the boy. Rodelinda is forced to agree. She takes back her child, lashes out at Garibaldo, and rushes away. Bertarido cannot see past Rodelinda’s surrender to Grimoaldo’s demand. Unulfo promises to find some resolution to the dilemma. Alone and disconsolate, Bertarido grieves over Rodelinda’s seeming loss of faith. Act II In the palace library Garibaldo again offers his services to Eduige in exchange for her hand—he will kill Grimoaldo if necessary. But he sees from her response that Eduige loves Grimoaldo still. Rodelinda appears with her child and reassures Eduige that her son’s future is her greatest concern. Eduige shares with Rodelinda her confused anger over Grimoaldo’s rejection of her. Grimoaldo enters with Garibaldo and Unulfo, and Rodelinda presents him with an ultimatum of her own: she will marry him on one condition, that he personally kill her son before her eyes. Her Meet the Librettist by Jill Leahy gambit works—Grimoaldo backs down (Spietati, io vi giurai). But, he is very taken with Rodelinda’s courage and constancy and feels that he might actually come to love her, though he cannot forget his feelings for Eduige. Garibaldo and Unulfo are left alone to debate Grimoaldo’s options. Garibaldo believes power should be seized and ensured at any cost. Unulfo, musing alone, decides to take Rodelinda to Bertarido and finds a breath of hope (Tirannia gli diede il regno). Walking near the stables, Eduige happens upon and recognizes Bertarido. She is overjoyed to find him alive. She assuages his fears about Rodelinda’s constancy, and they move away deep in conversation as Unulfo brings Rodelinda to the stables. Unulfo goes off to look for Bertarido, who soon returns with Eduige to be reunited at last with his wife. Intermission When Bertarido and Rodelinda are discovered by Grimoaldo, he orders Bertarido taken into custody and, enraged, bids them take their final farewells. Bertarido will soon die (Io t’abbraccio). Act III Dungeon in the palace Eduige sends a servant to the dungeon with a concealed weapon that is to be given to Bertarido (Un zeffiro spirò che serenò quest’alma). She and Unulfo plan for Bertarido’s escape: Unulfo, who has access to the prison, will lead Bertarido through a hidden tunnel from the cell to the palace garden, where Eduige will wait with Rodelinda and the child. From there they will escape. Grimoaldo enters with Garibaldo, who advises him to kill the prisoner or lose the kingdom, but Grimoaldo’s conscience prevents him from taking this action: he is caught in a web of conflicting feelings—fear, suspicion, love, and remorse (Tra sospetti, affetti e timori). Bertarido is reassured when a weapon is dropped through the bars of his prison cell. In the darkness he strikes out at what he believes to be an assassin—but it is Unulfo, come to help him (Vivi, tiranno). Even though he is wounded, Unulfo manages to get Bertarido to change out of the clothes he has been seen in. As the two men escape into the tunnel, Rodelinda and Eduige arrive— Rodelinda has insisted on rescuing Bertarido herself but finds only his clothes covered with Unulfo’s blood. She imagines the worst. At the foot of Bertarido’s memorial, Grimoaldo’s internal struggle continues. He ultimately acknowledges his cruelty and guilt. Exhausted, he falls asleep. Garibaldo attempts to assassinate Grimoaldo, but is stopped and killed by Bertarido, who gives himself up to Grimoaldo. Following Grimoaldo into the library, Bertarido dares him to condemn his own savior. Grimoaldo is himself ready to surrender and restores wife, child, and throne to the rightful king (Sposa, figlio). His apology to Eduige goes unheeded at first, but eventually she forgives him. With reason restored, the survivors can envision and celebrate a happier future (Dopo la notte oscura più lucido). Adapted from Opera News Nicola Francesco Haym was born in Rome on July 6, 1678 and worked as a librettist, composer, theater manager, and coin collector. He is most remembered for the libretti he wrote for Handel—Giulio Cesare, Ottone, Tamerlano, Flavio, and Rodelinda. Haym died at the age of 51 in 1729. Literary Basis for Rodelinda Haym based his libretto for Rodelinda on several sources: • A 1710 libretto, written by physician and court poet Antonio Salvi, one of the developers of opera seria. Salvi’s libretto was called Rodelinda, Regina de'Longobardi and set to music by composer Giacomo Antonio Perti. • Salvi’s libretto originated from a 1653 play by Pierre Corneille, a French tragedian, well known in his time along with playwrights Molière and Racine. Corneille’s play, called Pertharite, roi des Lombards, was based on the history of Perctarit, an actual 7th-century King.