Tag: Theodora

Handel – Theodora / Salzburg 2009 (2)

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Theodora_Didymus_death_grip2As noted, Theodora is a stickler. In the original story the oratorio is based on, Theodora is tossed into the brothel specifically because she has been ordered to marry and she refuses, preferring to dedicate her life to religion. The marriage part is not in the oratorio. But either way, she is one of those people who stick to principle, consequences be damned. At the same time, she is still a very much a human being. The music itself reveals it, although the story does too if you pay attention.

This is one of those operas where the sex is very much present by the fact that it emphatically does not happen. I have yet to see a version of it where the two main characters fling caution and clothing completely to the winds – that would make no sense – but these two tormented souls get pretty close.

During a beautifully rendered “deeds of kindness,” Didymus (Bejun Mehta) disrobes, item by item, and in Irene’s aria “defend her, heav’n,” that follows right after, the lines about preserving Theodora’s virtue seem to be voiced not by Irene, but by Didymus’s own conscience. In the end, he intends by “sweet rose and lily” to be satisfied with only a smile for his reward – and he gets one almost immediately, but not from Theodora.

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Handel – Theodora / Salzburg 2009 (1)

We get an unusual kind of bonus in this production of Theodora from Salzburg, directed by Christoph Loy. In Part III, in addition to the regularly scheduled music, we are treated to Handel’s Organ Concerto in G minor, HWV 310. This is not as odd as it might sound – Handel’s organ concertos HWV 306-11 were written to be performed with his oratorios, although they are separate pieces and as far as I know it’s not standard to put this one where it is in this performance. At least, none of the versions of the oratorio for which I could locate the track listing contain it.

The dramatic function of the concerto in this Salzburg production is to put some of Theodora’s inside thoughts on the outside. The additional music is inserted at a key point, after Theodora has been freed from captivity by Didymus but before she returns to give herself up to the authorities. As the music is performed, we get a kind of silent drama in which Theodora’s thoughts about the meaning of her escape are played out.

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“From Virtue’s Tiles” : Accents

So I was watching a DVD of Handel’s Theodora, one from Salzburg, filmed in 2009. Theodora in this instance is Christine Schäfer, whose moving performance was somewhat blighted by a weird sound-recording issue on the DVD, but more about that later. Schäfer is German and when she sings in English her accent is hard to miss. During the section in Part III where Theodora shows up to offer herself for death alongside Didymus, the words seemed on the verge of tripping her up.

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Handel – Theodora / Carnegie Hall 2-2-14

It turns out that Super Bowl Sunday is actually a really good day to go to an afternoon performance at Carnegie Hall. When the concert lets out the streets are clear and many of the restaurants are not at all crowded; we were almost the only people on the train back out to Long Island. And none of the other passengers puked on the way! And here I was worried that the game would louse things up somehow. Having experienced the Long Island Rail Road Late Nite Post Party Local (stopping at: Puketon, Little Leering, Loud Dudes, Shrieking, Puketon Again and points east – the first four cars will NOT PLATFORM at Puketon) in the past, this felt like, as they said in the eighteenth century, Heav’n, and one didn’t even have to be killed by the Romans to ride the train.

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Theodora / Glyndebourne 1996 / Daniels, Upshaw, Hunt et al. (3)

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As I was watching this I often found myself wavering between watching closely so that I could follow the visual aspects of this production, with its often strikingly beautiful stage direction, and closing my eyes so that I could follow the music alone. Probably a sign that I should buy the DVD and watch it over again. But this is a phenomenal performance.

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Theodora / Glyndebourne 1996 / Daniels, Upshaw, Hunt et al. (1)

The thing I like about Regietheater is that in the most abstract sense it’s about using one thing to talk about another. I mean, all theater does this on some level. It’s metaphors all the way down. But with more abstract and intellectually risky stagings there is a greater distance between what you literally see on the stage and what the thing is about. And what happens in the space between those two things is the draw. That space can contain a great deal.

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