Cincinnati Opera and WGUC present encore of ‘Hallelujah Handel’

Hosted by Cincinnati Opera’s Evans Mirageas, this four-part radio series launches Nov. 30 and explores the life and legacy of composer George Frideric Handel.

Cincinnati Opera and 90.9 WGUC are presenting an encore broadcast of “Hallelujah Handel,” a four-part radio series hosted by Evans Mirageas, The Harry T. Wilks Artistic Director of Cincinnati Opera. The series explores the life and work of composer George Frideric Handel and will be broadcast over four successive Tuesday evenings, beginning Nov. 30 at 9 p.m.

George Frideric Handel

Each hour-long program highlights a different facet of Handel’s musical development: his apprentice years in Rome, his long artistic life in London and his association with famous singers, the artistic and personal friendship he had with royalty, and the phenomenon he singlehandedly created – the English oratorio, and in particular, “Messiah.”

“Hallelujah Handel” originally aired in 2011, and Cincinnati Opera and 90.9 WGUC celebrate the program’s 10th anniversary with this special encore broadcast, just in time for the holiday season.

Mirageas, a former producer for the nationally renowned Chicago radio station, WFMT, brings his many personal connections to this in-depth look at Handel’s time in England. Mirageas lived and worked in London for a decade and has collaborated with some of today’s finest Handel interpreters, both as a record producer and through engaging their talents for concert and opera productions. Artists featured in the program include soprano Renée Fleming, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, and countertenor Andreas Scholl, as well as conductors Nicholas McGegan, Harry Bicket, Laurence Cummings and Sir Roger Norrington.

Cincinnati Opera and 90.9 WGUC presentHallelujah Handel

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Program overview:
From 1706 until his death in 1759, George Frideric Handel lived and worked in Italy and London. The scope, variety, and sheer amount of great music that flowed from his pen during his lifetime continue to delight us to this day. Whether it is the “Water Music” he wrote for his king, the brilliant Italian operas he wrote for the superstars of his time, or his matchless and immortal English oratorios (a genre he basically invented), Handel’s name and fame made him the first truly internationally successful composer. Over the course of four programs, Evans Mirageas will explore the amazing variety of Handel’s musical genius set primarily against the backdrop of London, his hometown for most of his career and, in his time, the music capital of the world.

Part I: Handel in Italy

Tuesday, Nov. 30, 9 p.m.

Handel’s genius did not simply appear out of nowhere. His most productive apprentice years as a composer were spent in Rome, an incredible hotbed of creativity at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries. Handel became the protégé of several powerful Romans—many of them cardinals of the Church—and perfected his amazing ability to write for voices there. Mirageas will share some of Handel’s earliest sacred, dramatic, and instrumental works, written in the white heat of youthful discovery—all of this preparatory work for his “assault” on London.

Part II: Handel’s Singers

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 9 p.m.

Not long after he took up residence in London, Handel started writing opera for the King’s Theatre on Haymarket. He quickly won the favor of the fickle English public with virtuoso writing for the operatic superstars of his day: sopranos and male sopranos (or castrati). Starting with “Rinaldo” in 1711, Handel would write operas for nearly three decades. He befriended and wrote works specifically for some of the period’s legendary singers: the rival divas Cuzzoni and Bordoni and the brilliant castrato Senesino, among others. Mirageas will cover the astonishing variety of Handel’s arias and duets with performances and stories from the great Handelians of our own day, including soprano Renée Fleming, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, the late mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and countertenor Andreas Scholl.

Part III: Handel and Royalty

Tuesday, Dec. 14, 9 p.m.

During his time in London, Handel served three successive English monarchs: Queen Anne and two kings named George! For George I, he wrote his celebrated “Water Music,” and he composed music in honor of the coronation of George II. Along the way, Handel’s operas (and eventually oratorios) caught the ear of his kings and other members of the royal family. Mirageas will trace Handel’s singularly successful dealings with royalty and enjoy the great music born of these associations with stories related by conductor Nicholas McGegan, a celebrated interpreter of Handel’s music today.

Part IV: The “Messiah” Phenomenon

Tuesday, Dec. 21, 9 p.m.

A virtue born of necessity. That’s how Handel essentially invented the form of music we know and love today as the English oratorio, a sacred music-drama. When the English public began to turn away from Handel’s form of Italian opera and the religious views of those in power placed severe strictures on performing operas during the Lenten season, Handel wrote oratorios, often using the same solo singers who peopled his virtuoso operas. These religious dramas also featured choruses, something mostly absent from Handel’s operas. The most spectacular fruit of this period is “Messiah,” written in the short space of three weeks in August 1741, in the middle of a devastating London heatwave. From its premiere in Dublin the following April, it has gone on to become the most beloved oratorio of all; it has been performed in versions ranging from the most intimate settings to grand “Messiah” festivals using choruses and orchestras of several hundred. Mirageas explores the “Messiah” phenomenon and the reasons it has become Handel’s most celebrated work and one of the iconic pieces of classical music.

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