Antioch on the Orontes River, founded in late 4th century BC, became an important city in the East of the Roman Empire; it is now in Turkey. It became known as the ‘Cradle of Christianity’, being the first place where the term ‘Christian’ was used.
It is the appropriate setting for Handel’s Theodora, to be staged from the end of this month by Pinchgut Opera. Theodora was written as an oratorio late in Handel’s life, first performed in 1750. Despite being Handel’s favourite oratorio, it was a failure in his lifetime, scarcely performed until the late 20th century when it achieved recognition as one of his masterpieces. It was first staged as an opera in 1996 at Glyndebourne.
Theodora is a story of persecution and martyrdom with sexual exploitation. The Romans, as the oppressors, get to sing rather jaunty, attractive music while the Christians’ music is beautiful and haunting. The libretto is in English. Theodora is a noble woman of Antioch who, having converted to Christianity, falls in love with a Roman officer, also a Christian. In this production the title role will be sung by Valda Wilson, Sydney-born but based in Germany where she is making her career.
Lindy Hume is the director with Erin Helyard, now Artistic Director of Pinchgut, conducting the Orchestra of the Antipodes; the chorus is Cantillation. Pinchgut has presented some of the most satisfying opera performances in Sydney in recent years; Theodora is next.
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