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April 14, 2009

Taking note of Handel's death 250 years ago

We live in a new age of Handel, really. More of his operas are staged than at any time since he wrote them, an astonishing development, when you think about it.

A whole new crop of singers has emerged with Handel credentials, including many a countertenor. Directors and designers seemed particularly inspired by the possibilities in these gems of baroque opera (I fondly recall a New York City Opera production of Semele a few years ago where the title character was turned into Marilyn Monroe).

Many of today's most popular singers, prized for their Verdi, Puccini, Wagner or Strauss, also include this composer's works in their repertoire. Rolando Villazon just came out with his first Handel CD, for example (and it's quite engaging). Last year, Placido Domingo added a Handel role to his extensive repertoire. And Renee Fleming, of course, has long triumphed with Handel's music.

The composer would have been delighted that his operas were in style again (he saw several major shifts in public tastes during his lifetime), and he would have been especially pleased to get in on the profits (that guy did have a knack for making money). Needless to say, the lasting popularity of Handel's oratorios and instrumental music also confirms his stature today.

To commemorate the 250th anniversary of Handel's death in London -- April 14, 1759 -- enjoy this elegant feast for the ears, a 1924 recording by the incomparable tenor John McCormack of Come, My Beloved from the opera Atalanta:

BALTIMORE SUN FILE PHOTO (Handel's grave in Poet's Corner of London's Westminster Abbey)

Posted by Tim Smith at 11:46 AM | | Comments (0)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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