1280x680_Oper_Konzertant_1516 © beyond/Mara Burmester


In the 1736/37 season, Handel was extremely busy. His own opera company at Covent Garden was under great pressure from the competition, the Opera of the Nobility at the King’s Theatre. Handel’s idea was to fight back by staging as many new productions as possible, and so, between August 1736 and January 1737 he wrote no fewer than three new operas: Giustino, Arminio and Berenice. But his efforts were in vain, and his company went bankrupt at the end of the season. Handel suffered a breakdown, but may have drawn satisfaction from the fact that the Opera of the Nobility also went bankrupt. Although Arminio was not much of a success at the time because Italian opera had gone out of fashion in London, Handel’s brilliant composition has a lot to offer for today’s fans of his music: the composer used a libretto that had been set many times previously. However, to rekindle interest in Italian opera he had the text condensed and modified the rigid form of opera seria: he worked with duets and created unconventional variations on the usual da capo arias. Against the background of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (9 A.D.), in which Germanic tribes led by the Cherusci chieftain Arminius (Hermann) decisively weakened the Romans and stopped Roman conquests in Germania, the opera shows the private complications – love, desire, loyalty, generation gaps – that Arminio’s family have to deal with, but which ultimately lead to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest and the Germanic tribes’ victory.