undefinedBritish harpsichordist, organist and conductor.

Imagine that around eighty works by a major composer were scarcely known and were rarely performed. There’s no need to imagine because this is exactly the case regarding Handel’s continuo cantatas. Come and explore some of these neglected gems with Cambridge Handel Opera.


Resident: £463 Non-Resident: £355 (25% off for under 27s) Code: 21/351

Booking for Members opens at 9am on Friday 14 May 2021. 

Non-Member and online booking opens at 9am on Friday 18 June 2021. 

For details on how to become a Member to take advantage of early booking, see here.

What is the course about?

This course will focus on a handful of Handel’s continuo cantatas. These are works in which ecstasy and agony go hand-in-hand in concise dramas where the young Handel flexes his considerable dramatic muscles. But the cantatas are no mere preludes to his operas. Couched in evocative pastoral language, Handel’s offerings are essentially the Baroque equivalent to modern pop songs, pulsating with that timeless theme: the woes of unrequited love. These life-affirming works provide catharsis through a roller-coaster of human emotion, be it humour, anger, cynicism, optimism or joy.

Cambridge Handel Opera is undertaking a Cantata-thon in 2021, which will see a series of live performances of Handel’s continuo cantatas together with instrumental works by Domenico Scarlatti and Antonio Vivaldi. A course centred on Handel’s continuo cantatas is a great focus for this unique project. Through it we can share the joys of this music with course participants, while also coming to an understanding of how this important oeuvre fits into Handel’s musical style.

Tutor website: www.julianperkins.com

What will we cover?

An introduction to Handel’s continuo cantatas both in the context of his years spent in Italy and his operas. How did Handel write for the voice?

Principles of singing in Italian

How to inflect recitatives

How to go about ornamenting a da capo aria

What choices are there when realizing the continuo accompaniments of these works as a keyboard player, cellist and theorbist. 

What will we accomplish? By the end of this course you will be able to…

A greater understanding and appreciation of Handel’s musical style

Informal concert at the end of the course in which the students perform some of Handel’s continuo cantatas

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

Intermediate/Advanced singers, harpsichordists, cellists and theorbo players

An appreciation of Baroque music and historically informed performance

How will the course be taught, and will any preparation be required?

A concert by the course tutors at the beginning of the course (included in the course fee)

An introductory session about musical style in relation to Handel’s continuo cantatas

Students will work together in small groups to prepare some of Handel’s continuo cantatas

Tutors will provide hands-on tuition in group sessions

The course can accommodate both pre-formed groups and ones that come together at Benslow Music

Suggested reading: Handel as Orpheus: Voice and Desire in the Chamber Cantatas by Ellen T. Harris

Will music be provided in advance of the course?

Handel’s continuo cantatas can be printed off for free on IMSLP.

Music can be provided at the course, though preparation is strongly preferable. 

Is there anything I need to bring?

Cellists and theorbists need to bring instruments at pitch A=415