Max Emanuel Cencic 1280x680 © Anna Hoffmann


The German king Ottone plans to extend his domain as far as Rome by marrying Teofane, the daughter of the emperor of East Rome. However, Gismonda, the widow of the exiled Italian king, plans to secure the throne for her son Adalberto by means of a trick: she introduces Adalberto to Teofane, who so far knows and loves her husband-to-be only from a picture, as Ottone. Lust for power, conspiracies and false identities lead to the most convoluted tangles that Handel set to music in masterful fashion. Ottone was so popular that its melodies were soon being whistled and hummed on the streets of London. One of the best-known anecdotes about Handel directly concerns Ottone: The new prima donna Francesca Cuzzoni is said to have complained that her opening aria was inadequate. Handel, convinced of the quality of his work, grabbed hold of her and threatened to throw her out of the window. She backed down, and the aria she had originally rejected, “Falsa imagine”, became the foundation of her reputation as one of the most expressive singers of her day.