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date: 19 February 2020


  • Anthony Hicks


Opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to a libretto anonymously adapted from Belisario Valeriano’s La caccia in Etolia (1715, Ferrara); London, Covent Garden Theatre, 12 May 1736.

Handel completed the score of Atalanta on 22 April and performed it as part of a short spring opera season at Covent Garden to celebrate the marriage of Frederick, Prince of Wales, to Augusta, Princess of Saxe-Gotha. (Handel had declined to offer a full season in deference to the dominance of the productions of the ‘Opera of the Nobility’ at the King’s Theatre.) The eight performances were preceded by two of Ariodante. Frederick, the leading supporter of the Nobility Opera, ostentatiously refused to attend the first night, but Handel was as usual supported by the king and the royal princesses. The young soprano castrato Gioachino Conti (known as Egizziello) and Handel’s regular soprano Anna Strada del Po sang the roles of Meleagro [Meleager], King of Etolia, and Atalanta, Princess of Arcadia. Maria Negri (contralto) sang the shepherdess Irene, John Beard (tenor) the shepherd Aminta [Amyntas], and the two basses Gustavus Waltz and Henry Reinhold sang the old shepherd Nicandro [Nicander] and the god Mercurio [Mercury] respectively. A significant last-minute revision (perhaps made during the first run) was the inclusion of a duet in Act 3 in place of Meleager’s brilliant aria ‘Tu scolcasti’ in scene vi; the second of the two issues of the wordbook shows that the aria was not cut (as suggested in Chrysander’s edition) but was given a revised text and moved to close scene iii. Handel revived the opera for two performances on ...

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