Magazine article Opera Canada

Tamerlano

Magazine article Opera Canada

Tamerlano

Article excerpt

Tamerlano was one of Handel's greatest operatic successes, coming between Giulio Cesare in Egitto and Rodelinda. Like some of his other masterpieces, it was composed quickly--over less than three weeks in July 1724, while Handel ate, slept, and worked in one room until finished. But then he revised the score extensively in preparation for the October premiere. Some of the reworking was for practical reasons, such as the arrival of the tenor Francesco Borosini from Vienna to sing the role of the hero, Bajazet. Handel also tightened things up and composed new versions of important scenes, improving flow, characterization and emotional impact. With Borosini, soprano Francesca Cuzzoni and the famed castrato Senesino in the premiere, Tamerlano was staged 12 times in the 1724/25 season to great acclaim, with patrons emerging from the King's Theatre weeping. Handel must have been pleased with his new and improved work, for when it was revived in November 1731, he made very few changes. The performing edition for this recording, by conductor Riccardo Minasi, is based on the 1731 version.

The story of Tamerlano was well known at the time. It's based on the historical conflict between the Turkish sultan, Bajazet, captured and imprisoned by the title character, the Emperor of the Tartars. It had appeared as a play in London, and Francesco Gasparini had set it as an opera a decade before Handel. The story also appeared occasionally under the title Bajazet, as composed by Vivaldi in 1735. Handel's-Bajazet character is considered one of the first major tenor roles in opera, while the Turkish setting and culture became very popular in subsequent operas, as witness Mozart's Die Entluhrung aus dem Serail. In recent times, both Washington National Opera and Los Angeles Opera staged Tamerlano in 2008 and 2009, with Placido Domingo, General Director of both companies, in the role of Bajazet. …

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