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Handel, Hagen, and Werktreue: In search of an historically-informed approach to musical alterations in Handel opera revivals

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Larry ZazzoORCiD



This is the final published version of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Georg-Friedrich-Händel-Gesellschaft, Bärenreiter, 2023.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Oskar Hagen's revivals in the 1920s of Rodelinda, Ottone, Giulio Cesare and Serse in Göettingen (and to a lesser extent Hans Joachim Moser's 1922 Orlandos Liebeswahn in Halle) are viewed today as — at best — historical curiosities indicative of the prevailing Expressionist aesthetics of their time and — at worst — cautionary tales for today's directors of Handel operas, 'frightful manglings' (Paul Henry Lang) of Handel' original musical and dramatic intentions. Not only recitatives and da capos but also entire arias and scenes were transposed, cut or entirely eliminated, and musical material from his other operas inserted. Of course, Handel himself used all of these same techniques when reviving his own works, for any number of practical and aesthetic reasons, making the application of Werktreue to his music particularly problematic, and indeed the adoption of versions as Handel presented them in their premieres is only a default position for scholars preparing editions of his works. Given that modern performers are often faced with a similar mix of the practical and aesthetic when reviving Handel's works, a middle way between the Scylla of Hagen and the Charybdis of slavish first-night adherence is almost always necessary. This articles re-examines Hagen and Moser's patterns of revision in their 1920s revivals in the context of Handel's own practice, and will propose a preliminary set of practical guidelines for directors and conductors who desire to be historically-informed when making similar decisions in tailoring performing editions of Handel's operas for the 21rst century.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Zazzo L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published


Year: 2023

Volume: 69

Pages: 53-67

Online publication date: 05/09/2023

Acceptance date: 01/11/2022

Date deposited: 05/09/2023

ISSN (electronic): 2749-2745

Publisher: Georg-Friedrich-Händel-Gesellschaft, Bärenreiter


ePrints DOI: 10.57711/j2v8-ac15