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Weldon's The Judgment of Paris (1701)
with the Academy of Ancient Music
Featuring Anna Dennis, Helen Charlston, Kitty Whately, Thomas Walker and Jonathan Brown
Cambridge Handel Opera Company (CHOC), in collaboration with the Academy of Ancient Music, will perform John Weldon’s 'The Judgment of Paris', one of the most significant works of English music theatre written in the decade following Purcell’s 'The Fairy Queen'.
John Weldon was a pupil of Purcell’s, a composer in the Chapel Royal and organist at New College, Oxford. In 1700, the Earl of Halifax launched a competition to encourage the composition of ‘all-sung’ operas in English (most English operas of the day mixed music and spoken dialogue). This ‘Musick Prize’ boasted a purse of £210 for the best setting of 'The Judgment of Paris', a libretto by William Congreve (whose masterpiece 'The Way of the World' had been premiered earlier that year). While two of the losing entries in this musical beauty contest – by John Eccles and Daniel Purcell respectively – are still performed to this day and have recordings in circulation, the winning entry by John Weldon has largely been forgotten and has never been recorded.
We believe the time has come to rediscover Weldon’s prize-winning composition. Weldon’s music sits on the path from Purcell to Handel stylistically, with more vocal pyrotechnics than the former composer would have dared. As Juno ‘descends in her machine’ at the outset of the narrative action she stuns Paris with flamboyant running scales in G major. Pallas, not to be outdone, ‘descends with a trumpet’ which plays virtuosic variations on her own coloratura. The audience is presented with not just a narrative beauty contest, but a musical one as well: where Handel might have set the text in a sequence of regular da capo arias, Weldon’s use of form is ever-varied with duets, trios and pastoral melodies interspersed amongst the fireworks. The chorus is also used in a novel manner throughout, supporting and punctuating the action, notably with a rousing (and raucous!) final celebration at the end of the work.
This collaboration, directed by Julian Perkins, follows CHOC's and AAM’s acclaimed recording of John Eccles’ 'Semele', which was released in January 2021 and nominated for Gramophone’s Opera Recording of the Year. The performance will feature a stellar cast of soloists including Anna Dennis (2023 RPS Singer Award), Helen Charlston (BBC Next Generation Artist), Kitty Whately (Kathleen Ferrier & Royal Overseas League Awards), Thomas Walker and Jonathan Brown.
- 📅Sat, 28 October 2023
- 📍Trinity College, Cambridge
- 🎫£35, £24, £10
Trinity College, Cambridge
Rose Crescent, Cambridge, CB2 1SU, United Kingdom