|George Frideric Handel|
Atalanta (HWV 35) is an opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel composed in 1736. It is based upon the mythological female athlete, Atalanta, the libretto (which is in Italian) being derived from the book La Caccia in Etolia by Belisario Valeriani. The identity of the librettist is not known.
Handel composed it for the London celebrations of the marriage in 1736 of Frederick, Prince of Wales, eldest son of King George II. The first performance took place on 12 May 1736 in the Covent Garden Theatre. It closed with a spectacular display of fireworks, which was highly popular with the Prince of Wales and the London audience, and the opera and fireworks display were revived a number of times in the year of its first performance.
The opera is rarely recorded or performed, and before a production in 1970 the critic Winton Dean claimed that it had not been revived since 1736. One arioso from it, Care selve, ombre beate, has achieved popularity as a recital piece. Despite being for a soprano, the arioso is sung by Meleagro (a male character—which was taken by the castrato Gioacchino Conti in the original production). In modern performances, the role is performed by a soprano.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 12 May 1736
|Atalanta||soprano||Anna Maria Strada del Pò|
|Meleager||soprano castrato||Gioacchino Conti|
|Irene||contralto||Maria Caterina Negri|
|Mercurio (Mercury), the messenger of god||bass||Henry Theodore Reinhold|
The plot is generally described as thin, with some critics rating it thin in the extreme. It takes place in legendary times in Greece, circa 13th century BC. The hero is Meleager, the young King of Etolia. He is courting the eponymous Atalanta, who runs away to the woods of Etolia where she lives under the name of Amaryllis among the nymphs and shepherds. Meleager follows her there and disguises himself as a shepherd, taking the name of Thyrsis. There their loves become confused with those of a couple of young shepherds, Irene and Amyntas (Aminta); Irene's father, Nicandro is the only person who knows Meleager's true identity. In the end, however, Atalanta falls in love with Meleager in his disguised form, and they are revealed to each other by Nicandro; Irene and Amyntas are reconciled, and all ends happily.
The complete list of arias is as follows:
There are two duets in the opera sung by Meleager and Atalanta. They are Amarilli? - Oh Dei, che vuoi and Caro/Cara.
- Dean, W. (1970). Handel's wedding opera. Musical Times, 111, 705-707.
- Dean, Winton (2006), Handel's Operas, 1726-1741, Boydell Press, ISBN 1-84383-268-2 The second of the two volume definitive reference on the operas of Handel
- Complete libretto of the opera as recorded at a live performance by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in Berkeley, California in 2005