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Theodora Comp [Box set]

George Frideric Handel Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 51.88 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Product Details


Disc: 1
1. Theodora: Ouverture - (grave) - allegro
2. Theodora: Ouverture - Trio
3. Theodora: Ouverture - Courante
4. Theodora: Recitative (Valens): 'Tis Dioclesian's Natal Day
5. Theodora: Air (Valens): Go, My Faithful Soldier, Go
6. Theodora: Chorus: And Draw A Blessing Down
See all 29 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Theodora: Recitative (Valens): Ye Men Of Antioch
2. Theodora: Chorus: Queen Of Summer
3. Theodora: Air (Valens): Wide Spread His Name
4. Theodora: Recitative (Valens): Return, Septimus
5. Theodora: Chorus: Venus Laughing From The Skies
6. Theodora: Symphony
See all 29 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. Theodora: Air (Irene): Lord To Thee
2. Theodora: Recitative (Irene, Theodora): But See, The Good, The Virtuous Didymus
3. Theodora: Air (Theodora): When Sunk In Anguish
4. Theodora: Chorus: Blest Be The Hand
5. Theodora: Recitative - Accompagnato (Messenger, Irene, Theodora): Undaunted In The Court
6. Theodora: Duet (Irene, Theodora): Whither, Princess
See all 19 tracks on this disc

Product Description

Amazon.ca

There is nothing like a good tale of Christian martyrdom to set the old creative juices flowing. Or at least it seemed to do the trick for Handel in this glorious oratorio (it was supposedly a personal favourite of his­-and listening to it, you can understand why). As you'd expect, it offers opportunities for blood-and-guts fury ("Racks, gibbets, sword and fire"), but it also has an abundance of the most meltingly beautiful arias--just try the young countertenor Robin Blaze in "Sweet Rose, and Lily", or Susan Bickley's heartfelt reading of "As with rosy Steps". And what of Theodora herself, sung here by Susan Gritton? On paper she looks quite an irritating character, a little too saintly to be good company, but Handel rescues her with some of his most profound and moving music. Her beautiful aria "With Darkness Deep as is my Woe", is extraordinarily moving, sung here with purity but also with emotional depth. There are also some wonderful ensemble pieces, particularly the duets between Didymus and Theodora (who love each other and end up dying together­-always a useful dramatic ploy). So, a terrific work, excellently packaged; this is the best of the four versions now available on CD so why hesitate? --Harriet Smith

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars FAITH WORSE THAN DEATH July 27 2003
Format:Audio CD
Dying for one's beliefs, Bertrand Russell said, is putting rather a high premium on conjecture. Killing for one's beliefs seems to be back on the agenda these days, and the story of the Christian martyrs Theodora and Didymus should strike a few chords in the 21st century. The Roman 'President' (yes, really) Valens is not some monster of total evil but a perfectly recognisable authoritarian redneck -- the laws of Rome including religious observances will be obeyed or else. Theodora refuses as a Christian and is sentenced to prostitution. The closet Christian Didymus tries to help, Valens' lieutenant Septimius intercedes with Valens arguing that it would have been his duty to carry out a sentence of death but not of a fate worse than, and the outcome is death for Theodora and Didymus. Lucretius said in the century before either Christianity or the Roman Empire were founded that religious beliefs are totally unverifiable yet this is the kind of misery they have people inflicting on themselves and one another.
Handel's Theodora is a towering masterpiece. It would be hard to imagine any serious music lover going through life ignorant of Messiah, the St Matthew Passion, Figaro or Tristan, but I wonder how many know Theodora, which is of the same stature as any of these. It is a big work (longer than Aida) and it is more even in quality than Messiah. It is not really right to single out individual numbers, but the first two arias from Theodora's confidante Irene will be likely to make a big impression on newcomers to the work until even they are surpassed by Theodora's Angels Ever Bright and Fair. The arias of Valens are superb pieces of Handelian swashbuckle, like The Enemy Said from Israel in Egypt or the tremendous Revenge Timotheus Cries from Alexander's Feast.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Total Handel Heaven! Dec 20 2000
Format:Audio CD
Handel's Theodora - the tale of Christian Martyrdom set in Antioch c304 A.D, is an utter delight, and no more so in this new recording by Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort and Players.
Those of you reading who were lucky enough to see the Glyndebourne production a couple of years ago with Dawn Upshaw, David Daniels et al, will already know what an emotional work this is, and this recording conveys Handel's musical (and emotional) mastery perfectly.
For your money you get three CDs (79, 60 and 48 mins respectively). The recording is crisp and responsive - the tempi well balanced and the pitch even (in this case A=418Hz).
What of the Cast? Counter-tenors are now big business with the likes of Scholl and Daniels regularly appearing on the World's opera stages, but it is refreshing to hear the excellent (and English) Robin Blaze in this recording. His voice is majestic, florid and emotional all at once, with a light, even temperament (listen to 'The raptur'd soul' or 'Sweet Rose and Lilly').
The soprano Susan Gritton is now a personal favourite of mine and in the title role she not only shines, but is a good pairing for Blaze's Didymus, no more so than in the two utterly rapturous duets at the end parts II and III respectively ('To thee thou glorious son of worth' and 'stream of pleasure ever flowing'). Sue Gritton has power when required but also possesses intelligence and the emotional depth to really make any aria meaningful.
Singers no less accomplished than Gritton and Blaze take the other lead roles. Susan Bickley's Irene is fantastic, and the timbre of her voice a delight to hear - she also gets my vote for 'best ornamentation', with some wonderful moments ('Bane of Virtue' and 'As with rosy steps the morn').
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Virgin" is not a dirty word Sept. 19 2000
Format:Audio CD
"Theodora, Virgin and Martyr" is the less than appetizing subtitle of Handel's pentultimate oratorio, subject taken from St. Ambrosius' "De virginibus", made into a play by Pierre Corneille (1646), and also a novel-treatise by Robert Boyle (1687). From this inauspicious subject, two works of great beauty resulted, the play and the oratorio. Yet the popularity of either was little in their day, and for this we will blame the subject, too much virtue, too little passion. However, the music is strangely liberated from the drama and Handel really outdid himself, as he did so often in the more subtle, heroine-centred oratorios "Deborah", "Susannah" are two good examples. Just how does one sustain interest over three CD's with little forward-moving plot and sententious choruses? Simply, via the music, and by extention, the skill and expressiveness of the singers and orchestra. Paul McCreesh took what he learned about variety from Solomon, dramatic singing of static texts from the Messiah, and gave us this latest, beautiful release. Buy this opera for Susan Gritton, a passionate yet consumate voice, but also for the clean, "boyish" (yet with lovely, dark low notes and incredible skill) counter-tenor Robin Blaze. And if you know Neal Davies and Paul Agnew, you pretty much have a perfect cast. The pure "gravy" element comes, however, with the addition of Susan Bickley, one of those rare mezzos who is genuinely soft and gentle on the ear while never sacrificing vocality. She is the kind of alto you loved sitting next to in choir, something of Anne Sophie Von Otter's warmth, and wonderfully expressive. Great chorus, great conducting, a worthy addition to Handelian output and recordings.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Total Handel Heaven! Dec 20 2000
By Jason Field - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Handel's Theodora - the tale of Christian Martyrdom set in Antioch c304 A.D, is an utter delight, and no more so in this new recording by Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort and Players.
Those of you reading who were lucky enough to see the Glyndebourne production a couple of years ago with Dawn Upshaw, David Daniels et al, will already know what an emotional work this is, and this recording conveys Handel's musical (and emotional) mastery perfectly.
For your money you get three CDs (79, 60 and 48 mins respectively). The recording is crisp and responsive - the tempi well balanced and the pitch even (in this case A=418Hz).
What of the Cast? Counter-tenors are now big business with the likes of Scholl and Daniels regularly appearing on the World's opera stages, but it is refreshing to hear the excellent (and English) Robin Blaze in this recording. His voice is majestic, florid and emotional all at once, with a light, even temperament (listen to `The raptur'd soul' or `Sweet Rose and Lilly').
The soprano Susan Gritton is now a personal favourite of mine and in the title role she not only shines, but is a good pairing for Blaze's Didymus, no more so than in the two utterly rapturous duets at the end parts II and III respectively (`To thee thou glorious son of worth' and `stream of pleasure ever flowing'). Sue Gritton has power when required but also possesses intelligence and the emotional depth to really make any aria meaningful.
Singers no less accomplished than Gritton and Blaze take the other lead roles. Susan Bickley's Irene is fantastic, and the timbre of her voice a delight to hear - she also gets my vote for `best ornamentation', with some wonderful moments (`Bane of Virtue' and `As with rosy steps the morn').
The other two male roles, Valens and Septimius are given excellent performances by the bass Neal Davies and the tenor Paul Agnew respectively. Both these singers convey the music perfectly, with Agnew's lyrical tenor voice standing out especially.
One must not forget either the chorus or the orchestra. The Gabrieli chorus makes a fantastic sound that is both well articulated and intelligent. The counterpoint and fugal quality of Handel's music is delivered with vigour when required and emotion in the more contemplative numbers. The chorus sings beautifully what Handel rated as one of his finest choruses, of the raising of the son of the widow of Nain (He saw the lovely youth) - it is easy to see why!
This recording has everything - a fine cast and chorus supported by an excellent band on period instruments. In short, it is three hours of some of the best music Handel ever wrote, and for that reason alone should grace the shelves of any lover of Handel's exquisite music.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Virgin" is not a dirty word Sept. 19 2000
By Dr. Peter J. Glidden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
"Theodora, Virgin and Martyr" is the less than appetizing subtitle of Handel's pentultimate oratorio, subject taken from St. Ambrosius' "De virginibus", made into a play by Pierre Corneille (1646), and also a novel-treatise by Robert Boyle (1687). From this inauspicious subject, two works of great beauty resulted, the play and the oratorio. Yet the popularity of either was little in their day, and for this we will blame the subject, too much virtue, too little passion. However, the music is strangely liberated from the drama and Handel really outdid himself, as he did so often in the more subtle, heroine-centred oratorios "Deborah", "Susannah" are two good examples. Just how does one sustain interest over three CD's with little forward-moving plot and sententious choruses? Simply, via the music, and by extention, the skill and expressiveness of the singers and orchestra. Paul McCreesh took what he learned about variety from Solomon, dramatic singing of static texts from the Messiah, and gave us this latest, beautiful release. Buy this opera for Susan Gritton, a passionate yet consumate voice, but also for the clean, "boyish" (yet with lovely, dark low notes and incredible skill) counter-tenor Robin Blaze. And if you know Neal Davies and Paul Agnew, you pretty much have a perfect cast. The pure "gravy" element comes, however, with the addition of Susan Bickley, one of those rare mezzos who is genuinely soft and gentle on the ear while never sacrificing vocality. She is the kind of alto you loved sitting next to in choir, something of Anne Sophie Von Otter's warmth, and wonderfully expressive. Great chorus, great conducting, a worthy addition to Handelian output and recordings.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection Sept. 15 2004
By S Duncan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I can find no weak link. The conducting is superb, the recording is clear digital, the story is gripping and as realistic as you can expect from Handel....and the singing? Superb.

Neal Davies makes a firm, vicious and cruel Valens. His menace is palpable yet very musical. Paul Agnew's Septimius is the definition of sympathy. He colours his voice vividly to convey his torture, conflicting loyalties as well as his sympathy and love for his friend, and later to convey his stern advice to the Christians "Dread the fruits of Christian folly". The latter was executed with fascinatingly clean runs.

I will struggle not to get carried away with Susan Bickley's RAVISHING Irene! "As with rosy steps the dawn advancing" will stop your breath with its purity, its beauty and the effectiveness of its simplicity. Likewise, "Defend her heav'n" will slow your breath in parallel piety to Bickley's awesome rendition.

The superlatives continue for one of the most endearing countertenors of our time. Robin Blaze's delivery as Didymus is smooth in all respects...vocal skill and drama without a hint of hysterics. None of the so-called 'hoot' to his lovely voice either. His duet with Susan Gritton ("To thee thou glorious son of worth") is rapturously sung and the voices are perfectly matched.

Then Susan Gritton herself: I am not equal to the task of her praise. Suffice it to say that her pure, golden-honeyed tone add painful beauty to technical perfection.

I summon the strength for final praise to the EXCELLENT chorus and Choir Director. "Go gen'rous pious youth" is one of the tracks that I play most frequently. All throughout, however, the chorus is brilliant.

McCreesh and his players have made this into an epic event. Full satisfaction guaranteed.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FAITH WORSE THAN DEATH July 27 2003
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Dying for one's beliefs, Bertrand Russell said, is putting rather a high premium on conjecture. Killing for one's beliefs seems to be back on the agenda these days, and the story of the Christian martyrs Theodora and Didymus should strike a few chords in the 21st century. The Roman 'President' (yes, really) Valens is not some monster of total evil but a perfectly recognisable authoritarian redneck -- the laws of Rome including religious observances will be obeyed or else. Theodora refuses as a Christian and is sentenced to prostitution. The closet Christian Didymus tries to help, Valens' lieutenant Septimius intercedes with Valens arguing that it would have been his duty to carry out a sentence of death but not of a fate worse than, and the outcome is death for Theodora and Didymus. Lucretius said in the century before either Christianity or the Roman Empire were founded that religious beliefs are totally unverifiable yet this is the kind of misery they have people inflicting on themselves and one another.
Handel's Theodora is a towering masterpiece. It would be hard to imagine any serious music lover going through life ignorant of Messiah, the St Matthew Passion, Figaro or Tristan, but I wonder how many know Theodora, which is of the same stature as any of these. It is a big work (longer than Aida) and it is more even in quality than Messiah. It is not really right to single out individual numbers, but the first two arias from Theodora's confidante Irene will be likely to make a big impression on newcomers to the work until even they are surpassed by Theodora's Angels Ever Bright and Fair. The arias of Valens are superb pieces of Handelian swashbuckle, like The Enemy Said from Israel in Egypt or the tremendous Revenge Timotheus Cries from Alexander's Feast. The main choruses are wonderful and the whole work reinforces my growing belief that Handel was the ultimate master of vocal writing.
Morell's libretto seems to me distinctly good, given that it is in the strange lingo that English poetry adopted in the 18th century. It is never ridiculous, and Dryden himself inflicted far worse on Chaucer believing he was 'fortifying' him with 'a correct and splendid diction', more realistically called by Housman 'this impure verbiage'. I personally would not want the poetry too good, because most great poetry does not lend itself to musical setting (as well-intentioned settings of Housman seem to me to prove). Morell provides a workmanlike inner structure for Handel to erect his temple.
The performers are eminent specialists, it is many years since I last heard Theodora, I have no other performance to compare, and I am too grateful for this one to try to criticise. It suits me that vocal cadenzas are kept minimal and that the harpsichord continuo is not obtrusive. I thought I had read somewhere that Handel actually had clarinets for an early performance, but I may be mistaken. As often with Handel it is hard to establish an authoritative version of the score, and alternative endings to Act II are provided.
Will I live to see the day when Theodora is in its rightful place as a central classic of our musical heritage? This set can only help in a big way towards that.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For ever blest with Harmony and Love Nov. 18 2005
By Ingrid Heyn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Ensure that you have a comfortable chair upon which you seat yourself when you first put this recording on - you won't be able to tear yourself away from the recording. This is sublimely, wonderfully, expressively beautiful. It has the perfection in a recording which remains in the memory like a shining jewel, like a confession of love from the beloved, like a pure bell ringing in the sweet air.

In short, this is a recording that all who love beautiful music will relish all their lives.

The cast is outstanding. It is impossible to imagine Septimius being sung more beautifully and sympathetically than by the wonderful Paul Agnew (although the Glynebourne DVD does have the equally superb Croft - what a pity about the semaphoric acting on that DVD, though). Robin Blaze pours out mellifluous and heartbreakingly effective tone in the role of Didymus. Valens, sung by Neal Davies, has NEVER sounded better. Irene, sung by Susan Bickley, is wonderful (I still prefer Lorraine Hunt on the DVD edition, but really, Susan Bickley is deeply moving on this recording).

And the Theodora...? Ah, the Theodora. No better choice in the world could have been made than to choose Susan Gritton. She has the full sweetness of tone that seems to have been made for Handel singing. Once heard, her voice will not be forgotten. It's simply ravishing - a very, very, very fine voice indeed, and used so exquisitely and with such good taste as well as expressiveness! She's a model of how to sing baroque music. Her Theodora is divinely beautiful and incredibly real. I have never heard "Angels ever bright and fair" heard sung so perfectly before...

The conducting by Paul McCreesh is fabulous, with the Gabrieli Consort and Players giving a stirring and beautiful performance.

This, without a doubt, is THE recording of Theodora to possess.

The final duet sung by Theodora and Didymus are as good a testimony to the sheer loveliness of this recording as anything else I could say:

"Thither let our Hearts aspire

Objects pure of pure Desire.

Still encreasing,

Ever pleasing.

Wake the Song, & Tune the Lyre,

Of the blissful holy Choir."

Blissful indeed...
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