300 Years of "Radamisto" by George Frideric Handel

On 27 April 1720, in the presence of King George I, the opera Radamisto by George Frideric Handel with a libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym received its premiere at the King's Theatre in London.

Radamisto was Handel’s first opera for the Royal Academy of Music, a private opera company that was founded in 1719. In May 1719, Handel was asked by the Academy's directors to look for good singers on the Continent. He traveled to Germany and Italy, found what he needed, and became the Academy's orchestra director that fall.

The first version of Radamisto, with a star-studded cast (Margherita Durastanti, Anastasia Robinson, Alexander Gordon, Ann Turner Robinson, Benedetto Baldassari [called "Benedetto"], Caterina Galerati, John Lagarde) was followed by a second version in the fall of the same year because Handel engaged a new ensemble. For the performance of the new version on 28 December 1720 (with Francesco Bernardi [called "Senesino"], Margherita Durastanti, Giuseppe Maria Boschi, Maria Maddalena Salvai, Caterina Galerati, Matteo Berselli, John Lagarde) some roles were given to different voices and arias were added. The new movements Handel composed were published as Arie aggiunte di Radamisto, ten arias and one duet (RISM ID no. 990024612). Further revisions followed in 1721 and 1728.

The plot draws on actual incidents from ancient Armenia and Thrace, events that were – as is so often the case in opera – very freely adapted. The themes of the opera are the power of matrimonial love, loyalty or resistance in the face of a tyrant, and the final transformation, in which revenge is contrasted with generosity and forgiveness.

Handel’s music consists of an overture in the French style and, depending on the version, around 30 arias, two or three ariosos, one or two duets, a quartet, and the closing chorus for the soloists.


Image: Page from a score of the aria "Son lievi le catene,"  Lund, Universitetsbiblioteket (S-L) Engelhart 40, RISM ID no. 190002687. Available online (public domain).


Catégorie : New at RISM

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