Opera Scotland

Apollo e Dafne Apollo and Daphne

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George Frideric Handel (born Halle, 23 February 1685; died London, 14 April 1759)




Classical literature - Metamorphoses. by Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso 41BC - 17AD)



First Performance: Hanover 1710..



The subject of Daphne's escape from the unwelcome attentions of Apollo, originated in the Metamormoses of Ovid. In the seventeenth century it was a subject that frequently drew the attention of opera composers. More recently there has only been one of Richard Strauss's later works, which remains on the margin of the repertoire.

Handel composed a large number of secular cantatas on classical subjects during his years in Italy, when opportunities for opera production were scarce. The music originating in them was frequently recycled into his later London operas, most obviously in his 'calling-card' Rinaldo.

This elaborate 40-minute cantata for two singers comes from the very end of that sequence, begun in Venice in 1709. He finished it the following year, by which time he was working for the Elector of Hanover. After the death of Queen Anne, that Hanoverian ruler inherited the British throne as George 1, and Handel followed him to London.



Apollo, a god (bass)

Dafne, a nymph (soprano)


Plot Summary

Apollo sees Daphne for the first time and immediately falls in love. Accustomed to getting his way, he starts to pursue her. However the nymph is determined to lead a life of chastity and resists his attentions. As the god becomes more insistent, she escapes by transforming herself into a tree - the daphne, or laurel. The contrite god decrees that her branches will in future be used to crown heroes.

The Cast

 a nymph

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