Hard luck trails Hercules
By David Stevens International Herald Tribune
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Handel opera falls short in Paris
From left: Toby Spence, Joyce DiDonato and Malena Ernman in ”Hercules.” (Eric Mahoudeau)
PARIS Hercules had a lot of bad luck in his turbulent career, although it could be reasonably argued that he brought a lot of it on himself. In a way, much the same could be said of Handel’s music drama on the mythical hero, which ran into a string of bad luck that seems to have dogged it ever since.
“Hercules” was written in 1744, in one of the composer’s late bursts of creativity, but drama or no drama, it was first performed in oratorio form in 1745 in Handel’s disastrous season at the King’s Theater. One of the principal singers was unable to fill her role, and on the whole things did not go well.
The story is really that of Hercules’s wife, Dejanira, and her mental and emotional breakdown spurred by suspicions – not unjustified – of her mate’s extramarital escapades. With the help of Nessus, who has his own complaints with Hercules, she gives the hero a shirt infused with poison but which she thinks is a love charm. End of story, and end of Hercules.
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Handel: Hercules / Minkowski, Von Otter, Croft, Et Al