University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Handel: Deborah

03/31/2019 1:00 pm
03/31/2019 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

In his early years as a composer, during his sojourn in Italy (1706-10), George Frideric Handel wrote an Italian language sacred oratorio, La resurrezione (1708), which you have heard on this program around Eastertime in 1994 and 2012. Deborah (1733) is Handel's first full-scale oratorio in the English language. It was the highly successful revival of Esther that stimulated the composition of Deborah. Composed in 1718 for private performance, Esther was a much less ambitious choral work than Deborah. Bernard Gates's production of Esther showed the English public the potential grandeur of Handel's unique oratorio style. Eventually Handel reworked Esther on a larger scale, but from the first he crafted Deborah in his truly grand manner.

The Old Testament heroine of that name is an Israelite woman who assassinates the leader of an invading army. Conductor Robert King, a specialist in baroque performance practice, collaborated with Handel scholar Anthony Hicks in putting together a complete performing score of Deborah, drawing upon previously unavailable manuscript sources. They restored the splendid overture, with echoes of the Royal Fireworks Music, that was used in revivals of this oratorio in 1744 and 1749.

Deborah was recorded in 1993 for the British Hyperion record label. King leads his own King's Consort of period instrumentalists, the Choir of New College, Oxford and the Choristers of Salisbury Cathedral, with soprano Yvonne Kenny featured as the Jewish prophetess. That Hyperion recording I last broadcast on Sunday, March 17, 1996. There was a subsequent Naxos recording of Deborah that I presented on Sunday, November 4, 2002. This Sunday I return to the Hyperion release.