The Wisdom of Solomon 06/24/18

June 24, 2018
Final Worship of the Academic Year
Featuring Handel’s Solomon

The German-born composer George Frideric Handel had been resident in London since 1712 and enjoyed great success as a composer of Italian operas. Soon he began to gain recognition as a composer of English church music, stage works, and operas and eventually abandoned Italian operas altogether.

Opera seria, the form of Italian opera that Handel composed for London, focused overwhelmingly on solo arias and recitatives for the star singers and contained very little else, and that’s what we’ll hear today in our excerpt from Handel’s Solomon.

From Wikipedia:

Act 1
The work begins with Solomon and his people celebrating the consecration of the Temple he has built in Jerusalem. Solomon rejoices in his married happiness to his one wife (unlike the biblical Solomon, who is stated to have had hundreds of wives and concubines), and promises to build his queen a palace for her. They express their love for each other and retire for the night as flower-scented breezes and nightingales’ songs lull them to rest.

Act 2
The wisdom of Solomon is presented in the famous biblical story of the two harlots who each claimed a single baby as her own. Solomon offers to solve the case by splitting the infant in half with his sword but the real mother rejects this solution and offers to hand the child over to the other woman, as Solomon knew the true parent would do. The First Harlot and the chorus praise Solomon’s judgement.

Act 3
In Act Three we see a state visit from the Queen of Sheba to Solomon’s kingdom. The king and his people entertain her with a musical masque of magnificent choruses depicting in turn the “lulling” sound of gentle music, the desire for military glory, the despair of an unhappy lover, and a storm which turns to calm. All celebrate the Israel of the wise ruler Solomon as a Golden Age of peace, happiness, and prosperity.

This morning we’ll be hearing a portion of Act 2, the story of the two women who each claim a single baby as her own. The words are in your bulletin and they beautifully tell the biblical story from the First Book of Kings and the Second Book of Chronicles. 

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