Here for the first time on CD is Glyndebourne's acclaimed 1996 production of Handel s oratorio Theodora. Although Theodora is a story of a virtuous woman and sexual persecution, this has not proved to be an obstacle to its enduring success, the subject a deeply touching one, resonating from the age of antiquity to the present day. The recording is the debut on the Glyndebourne label for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, one of Glyndebourne's two resident orchestras. This audio release, in no way detracting from the extraordinary Peter Sellar's production, allows the focus to be on the soloists, conductor and orchestra. This recording confirms Lorraine Hunt as a true Handelian, capturing the spirit of Irene as few others could. In counter-tenor David Daniels as Didymus, there is a breadth of range drawing the listener away from the oft strained and forced falsetto sound. From the outset Dawn Upshaw is a heartfelt Theodora culminating magnificently in her final duet with Daniels Thither let our hearts aspire... the delivery, sensitivity and ensemble nothing short of numbing. There is no better choice of debut release from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on the Glyndebourne label, William Christie's musical approach one of transcendence, making the most of this wonderful music. Great opera performances are often fleeting moments in time but since 1960, every note of every Glyndebourne Festival performance has been recorded. Eaves-dropping on these live performances allows some of the most seminal opera performances of the last fifty years to be enjoyed by all.
Handel's penultimate English oratorio was one of his least-heard masterpieces until Glyndebourne made it into a stage work in 1996. Those who saw Peter Sellars' production of Theodora with its original American cast or any of its revivals is unlikely to forget the experience. This CD latest addition to Glyndebourne's own archive series was recorded during the initial run, documenting Lorraine Hunt's peerless performance as Irene, Dawn Upshaw's touching Theodora and David Daniels, in his first major role in the UK, as Didymus. The recording isn't ideal the audience seems ever present, even during the musical numbers, and no attempt seems to have been made to edit them out any of their contributions. Anyone wanting a library version of the oratorio would be better considering one of the studio-made recordings, but as a memento of one of Glyndebourne's finest shows of recent times, it's matchless. **** --Guardian,04/04/12
Avid handelians must own this just for Lorraine Hunt's singing of as with rosy steps, which abound in integrity and humanity. --IRR, June'12