La resurrezione

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La resurrezione (HWV 47) is a sacred oratorio by George Frideric Handel, set to a libretto by Carlo Sigismondo Capece (1652–1728). Capece was court poet to Queen Maria Casimira of Poland, who was living in exile in Rome. It was first performed on the Easter Sunday of 1708 at Rome, with the backing of the Marchese Francesco Ruspoli, Handel's patron at this time. The work details the events between — and during — Good Friday and Easter Sunday, with the action carried forward in recitative, and exploration of character and delineation of mood taking place in the arias. The characters of the liturgical drama that appear in the oratorio are Lucifer (bass), Mary Magdalene (soprano), an Angel (soprano), St John the Evangelist (tenor), and St Mary Cleophas (alto).

First performance[edit]

A large orchestra was employed for the occasion, consisting of 39 strings of varying types, 1 bass viol, 2 trumpets, 1 trombone, and 4 oboes. The staging and scenery were also lavishly produced, and though Roman censorship of the time forbade opera, La resurrezione was certainly produced in an operatic manner. It was produced at Ruspoli's Palazzo in the main hall on the ground floor. A series of terraced seats, 4 in number, was built for the orchestra, curved towards the audience and rising at the back. Twenty-eight specially commissioned music stands were built for the occasion, engraved with either the coat-of-arms of Ruspoli or his wife. The proscenium was decorated with a tapestry depicting cherubs, palm trees, and foliage: in the middle of which hung a plaque with the name of the oratorio. The 46 letters were spread out over 4 lines, each letter about 18 cm in height. These letters were brought into prominence by the backing light of seventy light pans. The canvas backdrop represented pictorially the characters of Handel's oratorio, and in the centre was depicted the resurrection itself.

The role of Mary Magdalene was sung at the first performance by the soprano Margherita Durastanti. The participation of female singers was prohibited by Papal edict, and the Pope went to the length of admonishing Ruspoli for permitting Durastanti to take part. For the remaining performances, her role was sung by a castrato. The only details given concerning this individual are that he was called "Pippo", and that he was in service to the former Queen Casimiri. Durastanti later sang the title role in Handel's Agrippina. The aria "Ho un non so che", which she had sung as Mary Magdalene anticipating the resurrection, appears entirely unadapted for her to sing in Agrippina, though in a different context. The violins at the first performance of La resurrezione were led by the famous violinist Arcangelo Corelli (who also conducted the work).

Other catalogues of Handel's music have referred to the work as HG xxxix; and HHA i/3.[1]


Part Type Voice Name
I Overture
I Aria Angel Disserratevi, oh porte d'averno
I Recitative Lucifer Qual in solita luce
I Aria Lucifer Caddi è ver, ma nel cader
I Recitative Angel, Lucifer Ma che veggio
I Recitative Angel, Lucifer Chi sei
I Aria Angel D'amor fu consiglio
I Recitative Angel, Lucifer Ebben, questo tuo Nume
I Aria Lucifer O' voi dell'Erebo
I Recitative Mary Magdalene Notte funesta
I Aria Mary Magdalene Ferma l'ali
I Recitative Mary Magdalene, St Mary Cleophas Concedi o Magdalena
I Recitative Mary Magdalene, St Mary Cleophas Ahi dolce mio Signore
I Duet Mary Magdalene, St Mary Cleophas Dolci chiodi
I Recitative St John, Mary Magdalene, St Mary Cleophas O Cleofe
I Aria St John Così la tortorella talor piange
I Recitative Mary Magdalene Se Maria dunque spera
I Aria Mary Magdalene Ho un non so che nel cor
I Recitative Angel Uscite pur
I Finale All Il Nume vincitor trionfi
II Overture
II Recitative St John Di qual nuovi portenti
II Aria St John Ecco il sol ch'esce dal mar
II Recitative St John Ma ove Maria dimora
II Aria Angel Risorga il mondo
II Recitative Angel Di rabbia indarno freme
II Duet Angel, Lucifer Misero! Ho pur udito?
II Aria Lucifer Per celare il nuovo scorno
II Recitative Angel Oh come cieco il tuo furor delira
II Duet Angel, Lucifer Impedirlo saprò
II Recitative Mary Magdalene, St Mary Cleophas Amica, troppo tardo
II Aria Mary Magdalene Per me già di morire
II Recitative Lucifer Ahi abborrito nome
II Aria St Mary Cleophas Vedo il ciel
II Recitative Mary Magdalene, Angel, St Mary Cleophas Cleofe, siam giunte al luogo
II Aria Angel Se per colpa di donna
II Recitative Mary Magdalene Mio Giesù, mio Signore
II Aria Mary Magdalene Del cielo dolente
II Recitative St Mary Cleophas Sì, sì cerchiamo pure
II Aria St Mary Cleophas Augeletti, ruscelletti
II Recitative St Mary Cleophas, St John Dove si frettolosi
II Aria St John Caro figlio
II Recitative Mary Magdalene, St Mary Cleophas, St John Cleofe, Giovanni, udite
II Aria Mary Magdalene Se impassibile, immortale
II Recitative Mary Magdalene, St Mary Cleophas, St John Sì, sì col redentore
II Final All Diasi lode in cielo, in terra


  1. ^ Hicks, Anthony (2001). Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John, eds. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. x (2 ed.). London: Macmillan. p. 784. 



  • R. Ewerhart : New Sources for Handel’s La Resurrezione, ML, xli (1960), 127–35
  • E. Rosand : Handel Paints the Resurrection, Festa musicologica: Essays in Honor of George J. Buelow, ed. T.J. Mathiesen and B.V. Rivera (Stuyvesant, NY, 1995), 7–52
  • A. Hicks : Handel’s Early Musical Development, PRMA, ciii (1976–7), 80–89
  • D. Burrows, ed.: The Cambridge Companion to Handel (Cambridge, 1997)

External links[edit]