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Handel: Theodora

3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 29, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

Here for the first time on CD is Glyndebourne's acclaimed 1996 production of Handel's oratorio Theodora. Although Theodora is a story of a virtuous woman and sexual persecution, this has not proved to be an obstacle to its enduring success, the subject a deeply touching one, resonating from the age of antiquity to the present day. The recording is the debut on the Glyndebourne label for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, one of Glyndebourne's two resident orchestras. This audio release, in no way detracting from the extraordinary Peter Sellar's production, allows the focus to be on the soloists, conductor and orchestra. This recording confirms Lorraine Hunt as a true Handelian, capturing the spirit of Irene as few others could. In counter-tenor David Daniels as Didymus, there is a breadth of range drawing the listener away from the oft strained and forced falsetto sound. From the outset Dawn Upshaw is a heartfelt Theodora culminating magnificently in her final duet with Daniels 'Thither let our hearts aspire.' the delivery, sensitivity and ensemble nothing short of numbing. There is no better choice of debut release from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on the Glyndebourne label, William Christie's musical approach one of transcendence, making the most of this wonderful music. Great opera performances are often fleeting moments in time but since 1960, every note of every Glyndebourne Festival performance has been recorded. 'Eaves-dropping' on these live performances allows some of the most seminal opera performances of the last fifty years to be enjoyed by all. '.Musically and dramatically this production is flawless.' Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Product Details

  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt, Dawn Upshaw, David Daniels, Richard Croft, Frode Olsen, et al.
  • Orchestra: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
  • Conductor: William Christie
  • Composer: George Frideric Handel
  • Audio CD (May 29, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Label: Glyndebourne
  • ASIN: B007N0SV06
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,183 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ralph Moore TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 29, 2012
Format: Audio CD
Handel's penultimate oratorio, despite being the composer's favourite, was a miserable failure lasting only three performances. Librettist Thomas Morell quotes Handel as saying "The Jews will not come to it because it is a Christian story; and the ladies will not come because it is a virtuous one." Its popularity was revived when it was staged by Glyndebourne as an opera in 1996 with an almost all-American cast. For those averse to Peter Sellars' production, with its depiction of a modern totalitarian state rather than presenting the authentic story of martyrdom by Roman persecution of Christians, this issue presents a preferable alternative to the DVD as it allows us to concentrate upon the production's musical values and ignore modish distractions. There is still rather too much audience noise and ambient rustling as well as persistent idiocies such as Sellars' having the chorus ape a Jeremy Kyle audience by whooping their approval of chief-Christian-basher Valens' bloodthirsty outbursts, but by and large the musical virtues of this performance fully justify its release on CD.

Never much of a fan of Dawn Upshaw, I concede that this is the finest thing I have heard from her; she sings with purity and feeling, although I still find her occasionally a little arch. Norwegian bass Frode Olsen is plausibly fanatical while still remaining elegant of voice. Richard Croft brings a very smooth, warm-toned tenor to bear on some very difficult music. But the two undoubted stars here are velvet-voiced mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt (before she became Hunt Lieberson) and the extraordinarily adept counter-tenor David Daniels. Both have such richness and evenness of tone coupled with a vivid sense of the dramatic and their two voices remain utterly distinctive in character.
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Format: Audio CD
This three disc set from the Glyndebourne Festival Opera of a 1996 production of this opera features a young David Daniels (countertenor), Dawn Upshaw (soprano), Richard Croft (tenor), and Lorraine Hunt (mezzo-soprano). This tale of Christian Martyrdom in and of itself is quite fitting for a production, but this cast just sizzles. David Daniels was certainly in fine voice on the day this was recorded, as his rich velvet countertenor caresses the ears while Handel's music touches the heart and mind. Dawn Upshaw and Richard Croft both do remarkable justice to their characters, but Lorraine Hunt has just an amazing voice - it is captivating, and with Handel the voices themselves are in good hands. William Christie conducts and performs on harpsichord, and his touch is sure and the sound of his instrument bright.

As is typical of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera recordings (of which I have several), the liner notes are excellent, documenting not only the historical information relevant to the creation of this piece but also providing the full text of the opera. Photographs of the production are also reproduced therein. And the recording quality is just simply outstanding.

This three disc set is a steal. It is captivating, thrilling, and provides a very satisfying listening experience. It makes you wish you had been there in person. Very highly recommended.
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The McCreesh also great w/ Gritton & the Christie ( H. M. version ) has wonderful moments as well & I have all, as this work is one of Handel's most sublime . .. .but this version transcendent . .. .& L. Hunt was at her best ever & Dawn Upshaw always exceptional as well!
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Whoa! How come no one has mentioned that for a recording made in 1996, the engineers at Glyndebourne have produced a recording (acoustically) a rung below the first "talkies" of the 1930s? What a disappointment. I bought this after hearing a pirate recording on the web. You'd be better off down-loading that. Come on Glyndebourne, have a little integrity.
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I love so many aspects of this performance, which I know from the DVD, so was really looking forward to having the CDs. The set I bought was new. I didn't know it was possible to make such low-quality CDs - the discs had skips, clicks, and stutters. It wasn't a matter of the CD player, since I tried them on 3 different players, trying to salvage an unhappy situation. These are the first CDs I've ever purchased made in China, and certainly the last.
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