Handel’s opera Tamerlano (1724) is presented in a fully staged production by Cambridge Handel Opera Company. His most intense psychological drama, it tracks the anguished love of all its characters through an obsessive power-struggle between two intransigent rulers, to a tragic end.
In Handel’s most intensely psychological opera, paternal heartache, royal status, thwarted love and frustrated passion collide to devastating effect. The fallen Emperor Bajazet cannot come to terms with his humiliation – nor can he let his daughter Asteria fall into the hands of his presumptuous victor, Tamerlano. Asteria loves Andronico, but his love for her is paralysed by his duty to his ally, her father’s conqueror. Familial love clashing with proud hatred of an enemy has tragic consequences reminiscent of Shakespeare’s similarly dark and inexorable Coriolanus. Can resolution ever be found?
An opera that probes dilemmas of loyalty, identity, family and yearning is especially apt for our own continued state of uncertainty. Handel’s masterly score absorbs us, with music of spellbinding beauty and expressiveness, in the drama’s continually tightening tension of conflicting demands. And as so often in Handel, the oppressed and seemingly slighted women emerge as the true heroes of the action.
Shortlisted for the 2021 Gramophone Award for its recording of Eccles’ Semele with the Academy of Ancient Music, Cambridge Handel Opera Company is ideally placed to stage Handel’s Tamerlano in Cambridge in April 2022. With a cast starring the ‘heart-stopping’ James Laing in the title role and the ‘gloriously rich tenor voice of Christopher Turner’ as Bajazet, sparks will surely fly.