Review: Handel’s ‘Almira’ at Boston Early Music Festival

Ulrike Hofbauer singing the title role Sunday in the Boston Early Music Festival production of Handel’s first opera, “Almira,” the tale of an orphaned queen, at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.
Ulrike Hofbauer singing the title role Sunday in the Boston Early Music Festival production of Handel’s first opera, “Almira,” the tale of an orphaned queen, at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.KATHY WITTMAN

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Handel’s opera ‘Almira’ has at times received a harsh verdict from modern-day musicologists. “Very uneven in style, quality, and technique,” intoned one influential book on Handel operas, “with abundant promise but intermittent fulfillment.”

The artistic team of the Boston Early Music Festival sees things differently, and has placed its faith in “Almira” as a kind of bolt-from-the-blue, shockingly early statement of Handel’s brilliance. BEMF is making its case in a scrupulously period production that opened on Sunday afternoon at the Cutler Majestic Theatre. The work serves as the operatic centerpiece for the current biennial festival week.

After seeing Sunday’s performance, I think it’s safe to say that the Handel’s mature masterworks will not be displaced anytime soon, but “Almira” has much more going for it than its reputation would have you think.

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