Handel’s glorious oratorio rejoices in the wisdom of Solomon, one of Israel’s greatest kings.
In Act I, Solomon celebrates the completion of the Temple of Jerusalem with his High Priest Zadok, and the joys of marriage with his queen. Act II celebrates Solomon’s wisdom as he resolves the disagreement between two women claiming motherhood of the same baby. Act III depicts the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem as she delights in the utopia that Solomon has created there.
Handel invented the English oratorio – dramas sung in English, often based on stories from the Bible. Oratorios became so popular that Handel abandoned writing Italian operas to focus wholly on composing them. Solomon was Handel’s 18th English oratorio, and it was given its world premiere in March 1749 at the Covent Garden Theatre, now the site of the Royal Opera House. The anonymous text is based on stories celebrating Solomon’s wisdom from the Old Testament First Book of Kings and Second Book of Chronicles, with additional material from Flavius Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews.
Solomon is one of Handel’s most exultant works. Its magnificent choruses include ‘Swell the full chorus’ and ‘Praise the Lord’ – both expressions of pure joy – while the vibrancy and tunefulness of the orchestral ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ has made it a popular concert item in its own right. The arias are full of drama and introspective beauty and include the Queen of Sheba’s ‘Will the sun forget to streak’, one of Handel’s loveliest melodies.