John Cheek (bass), D' Anna Fortunato (mezzo-soprano), Julianne Baird (soprano), Peter Castaldi (baritone), Brenda Harris (soprano), Maire O'Brien (soprano), Brewer Chamber Orchestra, Palmer Singers, Rudolph Palmer

Catalog #: TROY0460
Release Date: August 1, 2001
Format: Digital

Here we have the first recording of Handel's final Italian opera with a period instrument orchestra, chorus and a superb American cast. Deidamia was Handel's last opera. He began work on it in October, 1740, at the same time he was completing its companion work, Imeneo, which he had begun two years earlier. On November 8, Handel presented his London winter season - with some new works, some revivals - and for this purpose had engaged the Theatre Royal at Lincoln's Inn Fields. Opening night saw a semi-staged version of the serenata Il Parnasso in festa; later in the month came the premiere of Imeneo. Despite a superb score and fine cast, the production was a failure and was offered only once again in early December. The fact is that opera - Italian opera - was passe in London by this time. The public had turned to other musical delights - stage works in English of a more frivolous nature than Handel's offerings. For serious entertainment, the sacred oratorio, also given in the native tongue, was becoming increasingly popular. Thus, the true merits of Handel's last two operas were ignored at their premieres: Imeneo and Deidamia really never had a chance. For the libretto, Handel turned to his long time collaborator Paolo Antonio Rolli, who devised a "dramatic skeleton" for the composer of the Ulysseys-Achilles-Deidamia legend. As entertaining as the plot was, the new opera met the same fate as Imeneo. So indifferent was the public that it was only presented twice more, January 17, and February 10, 1741. Thereafter, Handel substituted more sure-fire oratorios. Handel was discouraged by the failure of his new stage works. Whether he would have attempted a further London season or ever written another Italian opera was decided by the extraordinary success in Dublin later that same year of a new English-language work he presented to the world. Messiah would change the course of his life. Its reception gave Handel nearly another two decades of celebrity and began a particularly fertile period of composition. Deidamia went by the wayside completely until this wonderful new recording with this first class American group of singers.


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Track Listing

Title Composer Performer
Deidamia Georg Frederic Handel Julianne Baird, Brenda Harris, John Cheek, D'Anna Fortunato, M‡ire O'Brien, Peter Castaldi, Palmer Singers, Brewer Chamber Orchestra, Edward Brewer, harpsichord, Rudolph Palmer, conductor


  • "...a welcome addition to the catalogue. Listening to it today, one can only marvel that such a strong, enticing score has remained so little known."

    – Opera News

  • "this...deserves to be snapped up by anyone with a for Handel's superb and too long neglected operas."

    – Fanfare

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