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Lisette Oropesa|Handel: Theodora, HWV 68

Handel: Theodora, HWV 68

Lisette Oropesa, Joyce DiDonato, Michael Spyres, Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Il pomo d’oro, Maxim Emelyanychev

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Studio recordings of opera and oratorio are not so common these days, and the Erato label took a chance with this one, bringing in big-name singers, recording during the COVID-19 pandemic with all its threats of disruptions, and backing a major tour to go with it. As it happens, the gamble paid off as the album rose onto classical best-seller charts in the fall of 2022. It is superb. Despite its initial failure (probably London audiences weren't familiar with the story of the titular martyr), the oratorio Theodora, HWV 68, has come to be recognized as one of Handel's late masterpieces, and it was one of the composer's favorites among his works. Even more than Handel's other oratorios, this one has operatic qualities and, in fact, has been staged as an opera; there are long stretches where the chorus is silent. It stands or falls on the singers, although the small chorus of the historical-instrument group Il Pomo d'Oro is very fine here, with excellent renderings of the double pagans-and-Christian roles of the chorus. They are a remarkable group. The star is mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato as Theodora's friend Irene, and she is surrounded by, and nicely counterpointed to, younger singers who are just hitting their strides. Soprano Lisette Oropesa is a standout. She is known for 19th century roles rather than Handel, but her judicious and beautifully controlled application of vibrato, and her presence in general, are arresting. Theodora's partner in Christian crime, Didymus, is the little-heralded but smooth countertenor Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian and tenor Michael Spyres as the friend of the hard man Septimus is also very strong, as is the appropriately named John Chest as Valens. Conductor Maxim Emelyanychev keeps the energy level high through three hours of action, contributes an unusually active harpsichord continuo, and draws especially crisp performances from Il Pomo d'Oro. A standout Handel oratorio recording.

© James Manheim /TiVo

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Handel: Theodora, HWV 68

Lisette Oropesa

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1
Theodora, HWV 68: Overture
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:02:58

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

2
Theodora, HWV 68: Trio
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:45

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

3
Theodora, HWV 68: Courante
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:36

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

4
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 1: Recitative. "Tis Diocletian’s Natal Day" (Valens)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:30

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - John Chest, FeaturedArtist, Bass-Baritone Vocals

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

5
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 1: Air. "Go, My Faithful Soldier, Go" (Valens)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:52

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - John Chest, FeaturedArtist, Bass-Baritone Vocals

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

6
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 1: Chorus. "And Draw a Blessing Down" (The Heathens)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:02:03

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra, Choir, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

7
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 1: Recitative. "Vouchsafe, Dread Sir" (Didymus, Valens)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:02

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - John Chest, FeaturedArtist, Bass-Baritone Vocals - Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Counter-Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

8
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 1: Air. "Racks, Gibbets, Sword and Fire" (Valens)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:03:15

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - John Chest, FeaturedArtist, Bass-Baritone Vocals

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

9
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 1: Chorus. "For Ever Thus Stands Fix’d the Doom" (The Heathens)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:40

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra, Choir, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

10
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 2: Recitative. "Most Cruel Edict" (Didymus, Septimius)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:35

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Michael Spyres, Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Counter-Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

11
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 2: Air. "The Raptur’d Soul" (Didymus)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:08:12

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Counter-Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

12
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 2: Recitative. "I Know Thy Virtues" (Septimius)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:42

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Michael Spyres, Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

13
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 2: Air. "Descend, Kind Pity, Heav’nly Guest" (Septimius)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:08:11

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Michael Spyres, Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

14
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 3: Recitative. "Though Hard, My Friends" (Theodora)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:27

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Lisette Oropesa, Soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

15
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 3: Air. "Fond, Flatt’ring World, Adieu" (Theodora)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:04:00

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Lisette Oropesa, Soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

16
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 3: Recitative. "O Bright Example of All Goodness" (Irene)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:38

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

17
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 3: Air. "Bane of Virtue" (Irene)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:05:51

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

18
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 3: Chorus. "Come, Mighty Father" (The Christians)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:02:29

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra, Choir, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

19
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 4: Recitative. "Fly, Fly, My Brethren" (Messenger, Irene)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:08

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra, Choir, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

20
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 4: Air. "As with Rosy Steps the Morn" (Irene)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:07:18

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

21
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 4: Chorus. "All Pow’r in Heav’n Above" (The Christians)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:02:17

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra, Choir, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

22
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 5: Recitative. "Mistaken Wretches!" (Septimius)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:20

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Michael Spyres, Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

23
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 5: Air. "Dread the Fruits of Christian Folly" (Septimius)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:02:41

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Michael Spyres, Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

24
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 5: Recitative. "Deluded Mortal!" (Theodora, Septimius)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:02

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Lisette Oropesa, Soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Michael Spyres, Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

25
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 5: Accompagnato. "Oh, Worse Than Death Indeed" (Theodora)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:23

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Lisette Oropesa, Soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

26
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 5: Air. "Angels, Ever Bright and Fair" (Theodora)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:03:39

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Lisette Oropesa, Soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

27
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 6: Recitative. "Unhappy, Happy Crew!" (Didymus, Irene)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:13

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Counter-Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

28
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 6: Air. "Kind Heav’n, If Virtue Be Thy Care" (Didymus)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:05:21

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Counter-Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

29
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 6: Recitative. "O Love, How Great Thy Pow’r!" (Irene)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:34

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

30
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 1 Scene 6: Chorus. "Go, Gen’rous, Pious Youth" (The Christians)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:04:41

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra, Choir, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

31
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 1: Recitative. "Ye Men of Antioch" (Valens)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:33

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - John Chest, FeaturedArtist, Bass-Baritone Vocals

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

32
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 1: Chorus. "Queen of Summer, Queen of Love" (The Heathens)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:42

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra, Choir, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

33
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 1: Air. "Wide Spread His Name" (Valens)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:02:11

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - John Chest, FeaturedArtist, Bass-Baritone Vocals

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

34
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 1: Recitative. "Return, Septimius, to the Stubborn Maid" (Valens)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:40

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - John Chest, FeaturedArtist, Bass-Baritone Vocals

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

35
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 1: Chorus. "Venus, Laughing from the Skies" (The Heathens)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:19

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra, Choir, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

36
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 2: Symphony
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:54

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

37
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 2: Recitative. "O Thou Bright Sun" (Theodora)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:35

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Lisette Oropesa, Soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

38
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 2: Air. "With Darkness Deep, as is My Woe" (Theodora)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:03:07

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Lisette Oropesa, Soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

39
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 2: Air
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:03

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

40
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 2: Recitative. "But Why Art Thou Disquieted, My Soul" (Theodora)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:30

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Lisette Oropesa, Soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

41
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 2: Air. "Oh That I on Wings Could Rise" (Theodora)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:03:23

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Lisette Oropesa, Soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

42
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 3: Recitative. "Long Have I Known" (Didymus, Septimius)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:20

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Michael Spyres, Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Counter-Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

43
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 3: Air. "Though the Honours" (Septimius)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:03:12

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Michael Spyres, Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

44
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 3: Recitative. "Oh, Save Her Then" (Didymus, Septimius)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:38

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Michael Spyres, Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Counter-Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

45
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 3: Air. "Deeds of Kindness to Display" (Didymus)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:07:01

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Counter-Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

46
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 4: Recitative. "The Clouds Begin to Veil" (Irene)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:40

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

47
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 4: Air. "Defend Her, Heav’n!" (Irene)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:05:46

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

48
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 5: Recitative. "Or Lull’d With Grief" (Didymus)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:00:38

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Counter-Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

49
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 5: Air. "Sweet Rose and Lily" (Didymus)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:02:17

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Counter-Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

50
Theodora, HWV 68, Pt. 2 Scene 5: Recitative. "Oh, Save Me, Heav’n" (Theodora, Didymus)
Maxim Emelyanychev
00:01:33

George Frideric Handel, Composer - Thomas Morell, Poet - Lisette Oropesa, Soprano Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Il Pomo d'Oro, Orchestra - Maxim Emelyanychev, Conductor, MainArtist - Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, Counter-Tenor Vocals, FeaturedArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2022 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics release, ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Limited

Album review

Studio recordings of opera and oratorio are not so common these days, and the Erato label took a chance with this one, bringing in big-name singers, recording during the COVID-19 pandemic with all its threats of disruptions, and backing a major tour to go with it. As it happens, the gamble paid off as the album rose onto classical best-seller charts in the fall of 2022. It is superb. Despite its initial failure (probably London audiences weren't familiar with the story of the titular martyr), the oratorio Theodora, HWV 68, has come to be recognized as one of Handel's late masterpieces, and it was one of the composer's favorites among his works. Even more than Handel's other oratorios, this one has operatic qualities and, in fact, has been staged as an opera; there are long stretches where the chorus is silent. It stands or falls on the singers, although the small chorus of the historical-instrument group Il Pomo d'Oro is very fine here, with excellent renderings of the double pagans-and-Christian roles of the chorus. They are a remarkable group. The star is mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato as Theodora's friend Irene, and she is surrounded by, and nicely counterpointed to, younger singers who are just hitting their strides. Soprano Lisette Oropesa is a standout. She is known for 19th century roles rather than Handel, but her judicious and beautifully controlled application of vibrato, and her presence in general, are arresting. Theodora's partner in Christian crime, Didymus, is the little-heralded but smooth countertenor Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian and tenor Michael Spyres as the friend of the hard man Septimus is also very strong, as is the appropriately named John Chest as Valens. Conductor Maxim Emelyanychev keeps the energy level high through three hours of action, contributes an unusually active harpsichord continuo, and draws especially crisp performances from Il Pomo d'Oro. A standout Handel oratorio recording.

© James Manheim /TiVo

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