A Feast of Handel

‘Suoni Chiari’ present arias and duets from the opera and oratorios of George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Based on the biblical stories of wise King Solomon, the oratorio Solomon (1749) featured the mezzo soprano Caterina Galli in the title role. She sang at the first performance of many of Handel’s oratorios.

The duet Welcome as the dawn of day, between Solomon and his Queen (sung by the famous Handelian soprano Giulia Frasi) is not often heard, owing to cuts in the edition most commonly performed from.

We present it followed by the famous aria What though I trace (each herb and flower). The slow, mournful character of Will the sun forget to streak is ideal for the oboe and soprano, and we close our exploration of this oratorio with the rousing duet Every joy that wisdom knows.

The story of the Christian martyr Theodora is vividly told in the 1749 oratorio of the same name. This wonderful piece was not popular in Handel’s time but modern revivals have shown its genius. Streams of Pleasure ever flowing is a duet between Didymus (countertenor) and Theodora (soprano).

Set in Jerusalem, around the time of the First Crusade in 1099, Handel’s opera Rinaldo (1711) tells of two people promised in marriage, Almirena and Rinaldo:

Almirena, the daughter of the general of the Christian forces, has been promised in marriage to Rinaldo once the city of Jerusalem has been taken. In “Scherzano sul tuo volto” Rinaldo and Almirena celebrate their mutual devotion, but their happiness turns out to be short-lived as the enchantress Armida will soon abduct Almirena in an attempt to take Rinaldo for herself. The scene is a pleasant garden grove as Almirena sings.


Scherzano sul tuo volto.

The soprano aria Lascia ch’io pianga is justifiably one of Handel’s most famous works.

Recitative and opening bars from Handel’s manuscript of Lascia Ch’io Pianga

Featuring a similar plot to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rodelinda (1725) features some of Handel’s most dramatic and heart-rending composition.

Exiled King of Lombardy Bertarido sings Dove Sei, amato bene? (‘where are you, my beloved’) to his Queen Rodelinda, after reading his own memorial stone. They are eventually reunited but due to be put to death by the usurper King Grimoaldo. The lovers sing the duet Io t’abbraccio before they are due to be parted. The opera ends though, with the rightful King restored to the throne (and much rejoicing).

We feature one duet, Caro! Bella! , to show a glimpse of the wonderful music contained in the opera Guilio Cesare in Egitto (1724) or ‘Julius Caesar in Egypt’. As you can see, there is much more for another day:

The roles of Cesare and Cleopatra were originally sung by the castrato Senesino and the famous soprano Francesca Cuzzoni respectively. Handel composed eight arias and two recitatives accompagnati for each singer, thus making full use of their vocal capabilities


We conclude our recital with a lively duet from Joshua (1748), Our limpid streams with freedom flow. Written in a similar period to Solomon, the work contains lots of martial themes (the Jacobite rebellious were contemporary to Handel’s composition). The duet sung here is between the two lovers Achsah and Othniel.

Suoni Chiari (‘Clear Sounds’) are Ros Honeywill (baroque oboe), Sue Honeywill (keyboard), Seb Field (countertenor), and Vicki Field (soprano)