Peter Jones

  • 0202/2200/timp/str
  • SATB
  • soprano, mezzo soprano, tenor, bass
  • 2 hr 56 min

Programme Note

The ‘musical drama’ Hercules was composed (according to the dates on Handel’s autograph) between 19 July 1744 and 17 August 1744. After revision, it was first performed at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, on 5 January 1745. The main revision before performance was the expansion of the role of Lichas (originally a small tenor part) for the alto voice of Susannah Cibber. Other roles were sung by Elisabeth du Parc or ‘La Francesina’ (Iöle), Miss Robinson (Dejanira), John Beard (Hyllus) and Henry
Reinhold (Hercules). Handel revived the work in 1749 and 1752, making several changes to the score. This edition is based on the 1745 version and (except for the ‘Ripieni’ markings, discussed in the editorial notes below) ignores later revisions. Details of the later versions, and of Handel’s difficulties during 1745, are given in Winton Dean, Handel’s Dramatic Oratorios and Masques (London, 1959), pp. 429-31.
The libretto was provided by the Rev. Thomas Broughton (1704-1774), Prebendary of Salisbury Cathedral, vicar of four parishes in the Bristol area (including St Mary’s Redcliffe), and Reader at the Temple Church, London. The printed wordbook for the 1745 performances states: ‘The following Drama is founded on the story of Hercules and Dejanira, as it related by Ovid in the Ninth Book of his Metamorphoses; and the same Subject, as it is treated by Sophocles in his Tragedy call’d The Trachinians’. In addition to these sources (Ovid’s Metamorphoses, IX, 134-272, and Sophocles’ play The Women of Trachis) Broughton almost certainly made use of Seneca’s Latin tragedy Hercules
Oetaeus (‘The Oetan Hercules’ or ‘Hercules on Mount Oeta’), another treatment of the same subject. It provides models for Iöle’s scene of lamentation in Act 1, and for Dejanira’s ‘mad scene’ in Act 3, neither of which has an obvious origin in Ovid or Sophocles. The present score (with the recitatives no. 29a and no. 48 rather than their alternatives no. 29 and no. 48a) represents the state of the work immediately after Lichas’s part had been revised for Mrs Cibber, and corresponds to the printed wordbook of 1745. However, ink markings in all extant copies of the wordbook, as well as markings in the autograph and conducting score, show that Handel made three last-minute cuts before performance: (1) the recitative ‘It must be so’ (no. 29a) was shortened and
altered to become the version shown here as no. 29; (2) the recitative ‘You are deceived!’ (no. 46) was shortened to Hercules’ opening phrase (i.e. everything after beat 3 of bar 4 was cut) and the recitative no. 48 (‘Some kinder pow’r’) followed immediately, the aria ‘Cease ruler of the day’ (no. 47) also being omitted; (3) the chorus ‘Wanton god of am’rous fires’ (no. 41) was omitted. The alternative version of the recitative ‘Some kinder pow’r’, shown here as no. 48a, is the earlier form of the recitative, as it existed before Handel added Lichas’s aria ‘Constant lovers’ (no. 49) to the score. It may be useful to those who wish to omit this aria in a modern performance, though Lichas’s appearance at this point is effective, and the later version of the recitative may be preferred even if the aria is omitted. It is recommended that proper names should be given traditional English pronunciation, avoiding Italian vowel sounds. Also the first syllable of ‘deity’ and ‘deities’ should be ‘dee’, not ‘day’. Thus:
Alcides Al - sigh - dees
Dejanira Dee - yun - eye - ruh
Iöle Eye - oh - lee
Hyllus Hill - us
Lichas Lye - kass
Eurytus You - rite - us
Trachin Tray - kin
Alcmena Alk - mee - nuh (short initial a as in ‘talc’)
Oeta Ee - tuh
Oechalia Ee - kale - yuh
Cytherea Sith - uh - ree -uh
Stygian Stidge - yun
Eurystheus You - riss - theoos (correctly, though Handel implies ‘You - riss - thee - us’)
Megaera Medge - ee - ruh
Tisiphone Tye - siff - on - ee
February 2004
The present score has been prepared from Chrysander’s Händel-Gesellschaft edition of 1859, but has been checked against Handel’s autograph score (British Library, R.M.20.e.8), his ‘conducting score’ (mostly copied by Christopher Smith, with Handel’s annotations; Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Carl von Ossietzky, Hamburg, M A/1021) and a copy of the first printed wordbook (Hercules. A Musical Drama. London, 1745). Chrysander printed only the short version of the recitative no. 29; the longer version no. 29a and the early version of the recitative no. 48a included here are taken from Handel’s autograph.
The ‘Ripieni’ markings As noted above, this score represents the state of the work as revised before performance in 1745, but additionally includes the instructions added by Handel in the conducting score for the addition or suppression of a ‘Ripieni’ group of string instruments. These markings were in fact added in 1749, and similar markings were supplied by Handel for the other four choral works he performed that year
(Solomon, Susanna, Samson and Messiah). It should be noted that the ‘Ripeni’ were almost certainly a group of strings used to boost Handel’s normal orchestra, the players perhaps not being of the first rank, and that ‘senza Ripieni’ merely indicates that these extra players should be silent, not that the normal forces should be reduced. The use of solo instruments is certainly not implied. (Handel never uses the terms ‘solo’, ‘soli’ or ‘concertino’ in these annotations, though he uses such terms elsewhere in his scores.) It was felt inappropriate to suppress these markings, as they occasionally provide hints for
dynamic nuance, but it should be borne in mind that they did not exist in 1745, and for the most part are best ignored.
February 2004