Cut-and-shut Baroque: Handel’s pasticcio Catone in Utica at London Handel Festival

Like buses, you can wait many years to see a pasticcio, and then several come at once. Having only just reviewed the marvellous L’oracolo in Messenia by Vivaldi, I was next invited to Opera Settecento‘s Handel Catone in Utica, a pasticcio which had not been performed anywhere in the world for 283 years, in the gorgeous Georgian surroundings of St George’s, Hanover Square.

A few stunning arias stand out for miles. Particular highlights are Cesare’s “Non paventa del mare” from Porpora’s Siface and “So che nascondi”, set to the dancing melody of “Benchè nasconda” from Vivaldi’s Orlando; Arbace’s “Quando piomba” from Porpora’s Poro;  Emilia’s ravishingly lovely “Vede il nocchier” from Hasse’s Euristeo; and the irrepressible firework display that is Marzia’s “Vò solcando” aria from Vinci’s Artaserse, a blisteringly beautiful finale.

Click here to read my full review on Bachtrack.

I am just come from a long, dull, and consequently tiresome Opera of Handel’s, whose genius seems quite exhausted. . . . The only thing I liked in it was our Naples acquaintance, Celestina, who is not so pretty as she was, but sings better than she did. She seemed to take mightily, which I was glad of. I have a sort of friendship for her, without knowing why.

John Hervey, first Earl of Bristol, writing to his friend Stephen Fox after attending a performance of Handel’s pasticcio Catone in Utica, 4 November 1732

[Reinhard Strohm, Essays on Handel and Italian Opera, 2008, p. 249.]

Statue of Cato the Younger in the Louvre Museum. He is about to kill himself while reading the Phaedo, a dialogue of Plato which details the death of Socrates. The statue was begun by Jean-Baptiste Roman (Paris, 1792–1835) using white Carrara marble. It was finished by François Rude (Dijon, 1784 – Paris, 1855).

Statue of Cato the Younger in the Louvre Museum. He is about to kill himself while reading the Phaedo, a dialogue of Plato which details the death of Socrates. The statue was begun by Jean-Baptiste Roman (Paris, 1792–1835) using white Carrara marble. It was finished by François Rude (Dijon, 1784 – Paris, 1855).

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