Handel’s opera Sosarme, Re di Media HWV 30 was performed for the first time on 15 February 1732 at the King’s Theatre Haymarket in London. The successful premiere was followed in February 1732 by four more performances and in March by six, then a revival on 27 April 1734 with further performances on the 30th of that month and 4 May. According to Charles Burney, the opera was amongst Handel’s most attractive theatre productions.
When Handel embarked in December 1731 on the composition of a second new opera after Ezio HWV 29 for the winter season, he initially wanted to retain the geographical and historic setting of the original libretto Dionisio, Re di Portogallo (Florence 1707, Antonio Salvi, first setting by Giacomo Antonio Perti). Under the title Fernando, Re di Castiglia Handel began to set a story here about a struggle for power between a King (Dionisio) and his son (Alfonso), in which King of Castile (the “Infante di Castiglia” in the original libretto) Fernando intervenes. The plot is set in the former Portuguese capital of Coimbra and its surroundings and, because of the mingling of historic and fictional events and people, can only roughly be dated to the period around 1300.
As a result, Fernando, Re di Castiglia has the most “modern” subject of all Handel’s operas after Tamerlano HWV 18. This modernity is manifest in the portrayal of a father-son conflict amongst the ruling classes, with parallels to the English situation at the period when the opera was written; the setting in Portugal, a traditional ally of England, and the resolution of the conflict by the intervention of a ruler equally traditionally at odds with Spain along with England and Portugal. These were the elements which would have moved Handel and his unknown librettist in the midst of the compositional process to transfer the plot to an innocuous oriental location, including changing the names of almost all the cast. And so the opera was composed as Fernando, Re di Castiglia until shortly before the end of the second act, but then completed as Sosarme, Re di Media. Handel made further alterations for the performances of Sosarme in 1734.
– Detailed preface by the editor (in German and English)
– Reflects the latest state of research
- Urtext of the Halle Handel Edition
- Performance material available for hire (BA10713-72)