Too hot to Handel
Tamburlaine the Great rules the vast Tartar Empire in Central Asia. He has defeated the Turks in battle and captured their ruler Bajazet. He would prefer suicide rather than endure subjugation to a man he despises, but resists in order to protect his beloved daughter Asteria from the persistent advances of Tamburlaine. A taut psychological drama is played out to some of Handel’s most inspired dramatic music. Tamerlano was written in his annus mirabilis, which also gave us Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda. The same creative team which produced Belshazzar at The Grange in 2019 teams up with conductor Robert Howarth and the BSO. Our Ulysses from 2017, Paul Nilon, returns for one of Handel’s greatest tenor roles, Bajazet, of which he is a widely applauded exponent; Raffaele Pe is Tamerlano, having thrilled as Nero in Agrippina in 2018. We welcome one of the country’s finest lyric sopranos Sophie Bevan to The Grange for Asteria, and recent Jette Parker alumnus Patrick Terry for Andronico. Handel does not get any more emotionally and dramatically involving than this.
JUNE | 10 18 24 29 JULY | 3
- Composer — Georg Frideric Handel
- Librettist — Nicola Francesco Haym
- Orchestra — Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
- Sung in — Italian
- Act I
- Act II
- Act III
~ Act I ~
The all-powerful emperor, ignorant of where Andronico’s affections really lie, asks Andronico to plead his cause with Asteria, promising him in return the hand of Irene and the restoration of Byzantine power. He also promises to free Bajazet who, in despair at his defeat, desires only death. Irene arrives at the palace still believing she is to marry Tamerlano. Andronico breaks the news of her rejection by Tamerlano but persuades her to remain at court (disguised as a lady-in-waiting to protect her identity) in order to await developments. Betrayed by Andronico’s apparent treachery, Asteria pretends to accept Tamerlano’s love, which horrifies Bajazet and Andronico.
~ Act II ~
Asteria accepts Tamerlano’s proposal, her motive being to get near the tyrant, whom she will then try to assassinate. The outrage of Bajazet and Andronico at her apparent faithlessness causes her to change her mind at the last moment. The murder attempt having failed, the furious Tamerlano swears he will have Asteria and her father killed.
~ Act III ~
Asteria’s disdain, however, has changed him and he renews his offer to Andronico, only to have it rejected. Andronico now proclaims his love for Asteria. Once again Tamerlano swears revenge on all of them. During a banquet, Asteria (now a slave) tries to poison Tamerlano, whose life is saved by the intervention of Irene, who then reveals herself. Asteria is condemned to death and Bajazet is driven to suicide by the imminent execution of his daughter: only thus can he escape Tamerlano’s power. In an impassioned monologue Bajazet calls on the Furies to take revenge on Tamerlano, then takes his own life. But his death so moves the emperor that he decides to pardon Asteria and give her hand in marriage to Andronico. Tamerlano himself will after all honour his betrothal to Irene.