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George Frideric Handel

George Frideric Handel Composer

Atalanta, HWV35 (opera)

Performances: 32
Tracks: 98
  • Atalanta, HWV35 (opera)
    Year: 1736
    Genre: Opera
    Pr. Instruments: Voice & Orchestra
Atalanta was composed in honor of the wedding between Prince Frederick of Wales and the Princess of Saxe-Gotha. They were married with great pomp and splendor at the Chapel Royal on April 27. The opera is a pastoral work crowned with the spectacle of the god Mercury descending from the heavens as a messenger of Jove to honor the newlyweds. The speech he gives the couple in the opera was written to honor the Prince of Wales and his new spouse. This device, known in foreign courts such as Vienna as a licenza, was a rare occurrence in a Handel work, for he composed for the public, not the court. The climax celebrates the wedding of Atalanta, the Princess of Arcadia, and the King of Etolia. Here trumpets blare, drums are beaten, and fireworks and bonfires are lit. Quite a successful opera, the work was deeply appreciated by the prince, who forthwith abandoned his Opera of the Nobility and reinstated his father's favorite as his own best composer.

Atalanta takes place in Arcadia. It belongs to the genre of the English pastoral, and was influenced in its creation by the traditions of the English masque. Hunting, lovemaking, and bucolic imagery and scenery are its central elements. The time is mythological, and the music fresh and charming. It contains a lovely sleep scene in which Atalanta calls down the dreams to soothe her lover's troubled spirits. She sings an arioso which abruptly changes key from A major to A minor as he wakes and sees her. The opera contains a wild boar hunt, a spectacular finale, and interlocking scenes containing ariosos and cavatinas. The premiere of Atalanta also marked the debut of a new singer in Handel's company, the castrato Gioacchino Conti. His extremely high tessitura forced Handel to compose his parts in the soprano clef.

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