Handel’s ARMINIO was rediscovered thanks to this production first staged at the Handel Festival Karlsruhe in 2016. The much sought after countertenor Max Emanuel Cenčić not only sings the title role but also directs this production.
ARMINIO thus rises from oblivion. It is one of a three of operas – along with GIUSTINO and BERENICE – written within six months in 1736; a period of anxiety and pressure for Handel. The opera met with little public enthusiasm and was never revived during the composer’s lifetime. The libretto is certainly not the finest Handel set; it was adapted by an unknown hand from an original libretto by Antonio Salvi, itself adapted from Tacitus. The story is rather incomprehensible, but sets two love stories against the backdrop of a battle between Roman forces (under General Varo) and Germans (under Arminio). Love, duty, patriotism and honour are the order of the day.
Handel’s score is rich in compensations though, particularly Act 2, which closes with a sequence of contrasting, large-scale arias – Sigismondo’s coloratura showcase ‘Quella fiamma’ (What a flame) and then Arminio’s tragic ‘Vado a morir’ (I’m going to die) – a lament of near ‘Scherza infida’ stature, from Handel’s ARIODANTE. Max Emanuel Cenčić is surrounded by a fine ensemble of singers, with the Greek ensemble Armonia Atenean in the pit, conducted by George Petrou.