Previous Events

Here you can read about and sample some of CHOC’s most recent productions and projects.

The Judgment of Paris (1701)

by John Weldon (1676–1736)to a libretto by William Congreve (1670–1729)

Performance at Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge
Presented in collaboration with the
Academy of Ancient Music

Saturday 28 October 2023

A prizewinning work

After 321 years, Cambridge Handel Opera Company and the Academy of Ancient Music rediscover a lost jewel of English opera.

Following the success of our performance and CD of John Eccles’ Semele, CHOC continues its alternation of Handel opera production with English music drama, composed in the decade before Handel’s arrival in England, that deserves to be better known.

Between The Way of the World and his libretto for Semele, Congreve wrote the libretto of a one-act masque on the famous classical story of the contest between three goddesses for the award of a golden apple by Paris, prince of Troy – a judgment that led to the Trojan War.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Judgment of Paris (1638-1639). Oil on panel. Museo del Prado, Madrid

The libretto was itself designed for a contest, a musical one, with cash prizes, handsomely sponsored by a group of aristocrats. John Weldon, organist of New College Oxford, was the youngest finalist. Unexpectedly, his setting  – which improves on Congreve’s libretto ­– won first place in the ‘Musick Prize’, triumphing over the more conservative submissions by the three older and more experienced finalists, John Eccles, Daniel Purcell, and Gottfried Finger.

Weldon had studied with Purcell, and was one of his most talented followers. In The Judgment of Paris he combines elements of Purcell’s style with attractive features of modern Italian opera, a kaleidoscopic variety of forms, vivid instrumental dialoguing, bravura coloratura for the soloists, charming choruses (in up to six parts) and not a few flashes of wit, suggesting how successfully English opera could have developed had Italian opera not annexed elite fashion.

The Judgment of Paris (45–79 CE):
fresco from Pompeii

The London Gazette

Published by Authority

Sunday March 21, 1700

Several Persons of Quality having, for the Encouragement of MUSICK, advanced 200 Guineas, to be distributed in 4 Prizes, the First of 100, the Second of 50, the Third of 30, and the Fourth of 20 Guineas, to such Masters as shall be adjudged to Compose the best

Our performers

Weldon’s unjustly neglected masque has had only one professional performance since the eighteenth century and there is no recording – a situation that CHOC and AAM is amending with a splendid group of performers:

Cantata-thon VII

Tuesday 17 January 2023
Benslow Music, Hertfordshire

Our Cantata-thon series celebrates Handel’s rarely-performed cantatas for solo voice and continuo. Ecstasy and agony go hand-in-hand in concise dramas where the young Handel flexes his considerable dramatic muscles.

This concert featured the soprano Anna Cavaliero with CHOC’s Artistic Director, Julian Perkins, harpsichord. The programme included Handel’s cantata Allor ch’io dissi addio and a recently discovered version of Crudel tiranno amor, and some of Handel’s rarely heard fugues on the harpsichord.

Cantata-thon VI

Thursday 8 December 2022
The Jockey Club, Newmarket

We are very grateful to the tenor David Webb for standing in at the eleventh hour to join us for our sixth Cantata-thon. Our programme included Handel’s cantata La Bianca Rosa and a harpsichord suite by Handel’s second amanuensis, John Christopher Smith the younger.

Cantata-thon V

Friday 20 May 2022
St Botolph’s, Cambridge

This was our fifth Cantata-thon celebrating Handel’s rarely performed cantatas for solo voice and continuo. Our programme included Handel’s Mi palpita il cor, an aria from Tamerlano, and solo keyboard sonatas by Handel’s great friend and rival, Domenico Scarlatti.

Handel’s Tamerlano

5, 6, 8, 9 April 2022
The Great Hall, The Leys School, Cambridge

In Handel’s most intensely psychological opera, paternal heartache, royal status, thwarted love and frustrated passion collide to devastating effect. The fallen Emperor Bajazet cannot come to terms with his humiliation – nor can he let his daughter Asteria fall into the hands of his presumptuous victor, Tamerlano. Asteria loves Andronico, but his love for her is paralysed by his duty to his ally, her father’s conqueror. Familial love clashing with proud hatred of an enemy has tragic consequences. Can resolution ever be found?

An opera that probes dilemmas of loyalty, identity, family and yearning is especially apt for our own continued state of uncertainty. Handel’s masterly score absorbs us, with music of spellbinding beauty and expressiveness, in the drama’s continually tightening tension of conflicting demands. And as so often in Handel, the oppressed and seemingly slighted women emerge as the true heroes of the action.

Below you can watch a short film about the performance at The Leys School, Cambridge.

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Creative Team

Julian Perkins

Artistic Director

Dionysios Kyropoulos

Stage Director

Trui Malten

Lighting Designer

Liam Matthews

Production Manager

See images of the performance below. Photos: Jean-Luc Benazet

You can see Julian Perkins, CHOC’s Artistic Director, play his arrangement of the first two movements of the overture to Tamerlano on a Kirckman harpsichord in Handel’s music room here.

You can also read some of his thoughts about the opera by clicking the button below.

Read Julian Perkins' thoughts here
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Handel’s Green Room Series 2

Spring 2022, Online

Following the enthusiastic reception of Handel’s Green Room Series 1 last year, CHOC presented a second series of three online discussions in spring 2022.

Discussions were held between Artistic Director, Julian Perkins, invited guests and Tamerlano cast members. Chaired by Dr Ruth Smith, they were interspersed with musical illustrations, and with opportunities for audience Q&A. Ticket holders were able to access a recording via a private link afterwards.

Discussion One: Staging an opera, from concept to first night

Wednesday 16 February 2022

How is the concept (set, costumes, acting style) arrived at, and how much might it change during rehearsals. A discussion between Julian Perkins, Artistic Director, and Dionysios Kyropoulos, Stage Director.

‘Fear’ from the compendium of facial expressions of emotions (1698) by Louis XIV’s court painter Charles le Brun. This was used as the standard manual for actors throughout the period of baroque opera.

Costume design by Rachel Szmukler for Asteria in CHOC’s Tamerlano.

Discussion Two: Preparing to be Tamerlano

Wednesday 2 March 2022

Aspects of creating this challenging title role were discussed by two singers who are intimately acquainted with it: James Laing, CHOC’s Tamerlano – who is also singing Vivaldi’s Tamerlano at the Royal Opera House in February 2022; and Lawrence Zazzo, who sang Handel’s Tamerlano in Frankfurt in 2019.

Lawrence Zazzo

(photo: Eric Richmond)

James Laing as Demetrio in Berenice.
Royal Opera House, London

(photo: Clive Barda)

Discussion Three: The continuo group

Wednesday 16 March 2022

The continuo group is the musical backbone of the ensemble – vocal as well as instrumental. Who plays what, when, on what instrument, and from what music? And who decides? A discussion between Professor Peter Holman, Artistic Director Julian Perkins, and theorbo player James Akers.

Theorbo rose by Andrea Harton c.1617, from an instrument in the Danish Musical Museum

(photo: Travis Carey)

Handel’s Green Room Series 1

Spring 2021, Online

To a large audience worldwide, Cambridge Handel Opera Company presented three online discussions focussed on key aspects of preparing a Handel opera for the stage.

Discussions between Artistic Director, Julian Perkins, and invited guests, chaired by Dr Ruth Smith, were interspersed with musical illustrations, and with opportunities for audience Q&A – including votes on variant versions of ornaments. Ticket holders were able to access a recording via a private link afterwards.

Discussion One: Ornamenting Handel

Tuesday 23 February 2021

What (if any) should be the limits of ornamentation, what role can the instruments play, and who decides and how? Julian Perkins and Christopher Turner (Bajazet, tenor) explored how Italian operas such as Tamerlano allow for creativity by singers.

Discussion Two: Recitative - ‘Speaking in Tones’

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Not just link passages! Artistic director Julian Perkins and Tamerlano stage director Dionysios Kyropoulos on the vital role that recitatives have in the drama: expressing character, forwarding the plot, providing emotional launch pads for arias. In a hands-on session Julian and Dionysios explored in detail their approaches to preparing recitatives with singers, concluding with thoughts about the special nature of accompanied recitative.

Discussion Three: Production Dynamics

Tuesday 27 April 2021

What goes into staging Handel’s Tamerlano? In this interactive session Julian Perkins and Dionysios Kyropoulos discussed preparing a performing edition (gaining helpful suggestions from scholars among the audience); elements of baroque gesture and their meaning; and plans for the intricate rehearsal schedule.

Eccles’ Semele

29 November 2019
Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge

Cambridge Handel Opera Company, Cambridge Early Music and Academy of Ancient Music joined forces for the first time for a rare concert performance and an acclaimed recording of John Eccles’ Semele. The disc was shortlisted for the 2021 Gramophone Award, named Recording of the Month in BBC Music MagazineDisc of the Month in Opera, Record of the Week on BBC Radio 3 and Editor’s Choice in Gramophone. 

“Eccles’s 1706 work is a fascinating insight into its era, and this clean, light-on-its-feet version is a truly gratifying listen.” The Guardian, February 2021

“With the Academy of Ancient Music, the director Julian Perkins reveals a work that exceeds the superficially attractive, his charged reading embracing high drama and deep emotion.”  Sunday Times, February 2021

The opera is a lively retelling of Jupiter’s pursuit of the Theban princess Semele. Juno plots her downfall by persuading her to insist on seeing him in his divine form, whereupon his thunderbolts consume her. Planned for the opening of London’s Italian Opera House, Semele was never performed at the time, and the libretto is best known today from Handel’s later setting.

Below Tenor Rory Carver, baritone Richard Burkhard and soprano Anna Dennis join Julian Perkins and members of the Academy of Ancient Music previewed the recording ahead of its release in January 2021.

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Directed by Julian Perkins, and with the Academy of Ancient Music, this is the first professional recording of this work, released on AAM Records in January 2021.

“Thanks to Perkins’s deft casting, each principal’s vocalism and dramatis persona are wonderfully matched.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2021


Jupiter – Richard Burkhard
Juno – Helen Charlston
Iris – Héloïse Bernard
Cupid – Bethany Horak-Hallett
Somnus – Christopher Foster
Apollo – Jolyon Loy

Cadmus – Jonathan Brown
Semele – Anna Dennis
Ino – Aoife Miskelly
Athamas – William Wallace
Chief Priest – Graeme Broadbent
2nd Priest – Rory Carver
3rd Priest – James Rhoads

Click the image to order your copy now.

Handel’s Rodelinda

3, 4, 6, 7 April 2018
The Great Hall, The Leys School, Cambridge

Led from the harpsichord by Artistic Director Julian Perkins, the fully staged production of Rodelinda combined period instrumentalists from the ensemble Sounds Baroque with advanced students. The cast brought together young professional solo singers for Handel’s exquisite chamber drama.

Below you can watch a short film about the performance at The Leys School, Cambridge.

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Rodelinda – Alice Privett
Bertarido – William Towers
Grimoaldo – William Wallace
Eduige – Ida Ränzlöv
Unulfo – Tom Scott-Cowell
Garibaldo – Nicholas Morris

Creative Team:

Musical Director – Julian Perkins
Stage Director – Max Hoehn
Set and Costume Designer – Simon Bejer
Costume Supervisor – Jefferson Miranda
Production Manager / Lighting Designer – Liam Matthews
Company Manager – Michael Jennings

See images of the performance below. Photos: Jean-Luc Benazet

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