“Charming Berenice” – the Earl of Shaftesbury attended a rehearsal of the opera on 12 May 1737 and went into raptures about this “inexpressible delight”. “Berenice” was premiered at Covent Garden Theatre in London just a few days later on 18 May 1737.
“Berenice” is one of the “light” operas and offers a wealth of musical gems, the second movement of the overture having become famous as “The Minuet from Berenice”, for instance, as has Berenice’s extended aria in the third act, in which she reflects on the inconstancy of the god Amor in duet with the solo oboist. The musical imagery which Handel worked into the opera is likewise enchanting, such as the imitation of bees humming in Fabio’s “Vedi l’ape” and the sorrowful cooing of a dove in Selene’s “Tortorella che rimira”.
The scholarly-critical new edition contains the musical text of the first performance together with pieces in the appendix which Handel excised or shortened in preparation for the premiere. As is customary with our editions, a preface provides a detailed introduction to the genesis of the work, the story’s historical context, the source material and reception. Furthermore, the edition includes a translation of the libretto and an exhaustive Critical Report.