Handel did not give a full opera season in the winter of 1735/36, probably because he felt unable to compete with the Opera of the Nobility while Farinelli continued to be their star asset, even though Handel’s previous season at Covent Garden had apparently been successful. However, when the wedding of the Prince of Wales was announced for the spring of 1736, Handel no doubt saw it as his duty to contribute to the celebrations, despite the prince’s coolness towards him. On 12 May 1736 he accordingly produced Atalanta
at Covent Garden. It has a pastoral setting, and tells how King Meleagro (disguised as a shepherd) and Aminta (a real shepherd) each pursue and finally win the women whom they love. The princess Atalanta is the object of Meleagro’s affections. The opera is generally light-hearted, as befits a wedding celebration, but has moments of unexpected emotional depth. The festive element is apparent in the trumpet fanfares of the finale, where they accompany a firework display, and in the Overture, which is the nearest Handel came to writing a concerto for solo trumpet. The first two movements are in fact based on the trumpet overture which opens the Deuxième Production
of Telemann’s Musique de table
, a source of many of Handel’s borrowings. Handel ingeniously paraphrases the original, though never quite making it typical of his own style. Telemann makes no contribution to the sprightly final gavotte, however.
from notes by Anthony Hicks © 2000