A huge slice of Handel: Tamerlano, Il Pomo d’Oro, Barbican

It is just possible that Il Gran Tamerlano (music by A. Scarlatti) might have been the first opera Handel saw in Italy. Handel would have recently arrived in Florence in the autumn of 1706, when Scarlatti’s opera, written for Ferdinando de’ Medici, was given at Pratolino. For his own opera in London in 1729, however, Handel used a later version of Salvi’s libretto, adapted by Haym. Handel himself made significant changes, enlarging the role of Bajazet to showcase the talents of his new star tenor import Borosini, while keeping the good-guy-heartthrob role of Prince Andronico for his famous castrato Senesino (who refused ever to play villains, in case it might put off his swooning fanbase). Understanding these dynamics is key to enjoying Tamerlano today: part of Handel’s skill was not only creating fabulous music, but manipulating and cossetting the proud egos of his principals with supreme effectiveness in order to continue to push Italian opera to the forefront of London’s cultural scene. Il Pomo d’Oro’s Tamerlano became, fittingly, a duel of musical excellence between John Mark Ainsley’s brooding, noble Bajazet and Max Emanuel Cencic’s sweet-toned, charming Andronico, with character-rich portrayals from lesser characters giving them something to fight over for the next three and a half hours of glorious music.

Click here to read my full review on Bachtrack.

Resources:

Senesino (Francesco Bernardi, 31 October 1686 – 27 November 1758) was a celebrated Italian contralto castrato, particularly remembered today for his long collaboration with Handel.

Senesino (Francesco Bernardi, 31 October 1686 – 27 November 1758) was a celebrated Italian contralto castrato, particularly remembered today for his long collaboration with Handel.

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