Notes and Editorial Reviews
When the young George Frideric Handel travelled to Italy in the summer of 1706, he had already written four German operas for the Gänsemarkt opera house in Hamburg. South of the Alps, he went on to stage his Rodrigo in Florence in the summer of 1707, and then his Agrippina in Venice at the end of 1709 / beginning of 1710. Agrippina is generally regarded as the work with which he achieved the breakthrough to his Baroque opera style that then became popular all over Europe.
Now a major work by Handel has apparently been added to this important chapter in music history. In 2007, the conductor and musicologist Ottaviano Tenerani had the good fortune to come across a complete copy of a hitherto unknown Handel opera, Germanico,
in an Italian library. In all likelihood, this is the very first opera with an Italian libretto to come from the pen of the great Baroque composer. Germanico, which dates from 1706, is a sensational addition to the repertoire, and is heard here in its world première recording.
Basing their initial reaction on a musicological, stylistic and historical analysis, Handel experts like Sir Charles Mackeras and Prof. Donald Burrows suggest that Germanico is indeed by the young Handel. And the composer's musical 'signature' is likewise unmistakeable in terms of musical style and dramatic form, e.g. in the way the vocalists and the orchestral instruments are deployed, in the sparing use of the chorus and the unusually rich embellishment of the recitatives and arias. In addition, there are some typical musical borrowings, but also unusual features such as two arias with obbligato viola da gamba, and even – a true rarity in Baroque opera – pieces set for several voices, in this case numbers with three and six parts.
The watermarks of the manuscript paper used allow the copy to be traced to Venice in the years 1706 – 1709. The manuscript states, in the same handwriting used for both the music and the text, that the work is "Del Sigr Hendl" – by Signore Handel.
The work is set in a single, fairly long act for six soloists, chorus and quite a variety of instruments, and is more of an Italian serenata than a full-blown Baroque opera. It was presumably written to a private commission and staged in private performance: the young Handel was unknown both in Italy and elsewhere, so that at this time he worked mainly to commissions awarded by leading members of the Italian nobility and clergy. This probably explains why the score was only rediscovered a few years ago, and why the writings on Handel from the last three centuries make no mention of the title, nor refer to Germanico in any way.
The opera tells the story of the Roman commander Germanicus, nephew of the Emperor Tiberius, who returns from his campaign against German tribal chieftain Arminius – itself the follow-up to the Battle of Teutoburg Forest – to a triumphant reception in Rome in 17 AD. However, as was customary in a serenata, this subject merely provided the allegorical framework for a composition paying tribute to a royal family: there is clear evidence to suggest that Germanico may have been commissioned by the Habsburgs, and may refer to a conflict that arose in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14).
The top-drawer cast of this world première recording features Baroque specialists like Sara Mingardo, Maria Grazia Schiavo, Laura Cherici and countertenor Franco Fagioli together with the Italian ensemble Il Rossignolo; it is conducted by the man who discovered the opera, Ottaviano Tenerani.
Works on This Recording
Germanico by George Frideric Handel
Laura Cherici (Soprano),
Maria Grazia Schiavo (Soprano),
Sara Mingardo (Alto),
Franco Fagioli (Countertenor),
Magnus Staveland (Tenor),
Sergio Foresti (Bass)
Be the first to review this title