With his “La Bellezza ravveduta nel trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno” (“Beauty Reformed in the Triumph of Time and Enlightenment”), HWV 46a, the 22-year-old Handel notched up one of his greatest successes in this genre right at the very beginning of his oratorio oeuvre. Composed in Rome in 1707, the work was for a long time known as “Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno” (“The Triumph of Time and Enlightenment”). In keeping with the Halle Handel Edition, however, the title is that of the name given in the primary source.
In many cases inspired by the melodically rich ideas of Reinhard Keiser (1674–1739), the work is unsurpassed by any other oratorio by Handel. At the end of an impressive sequence of truly captivating arias, duets and quartets, Bellezza’s reformation in favour of living a life pleasing to God is accompanied in incisive E major by her overwhelmingly beautiful, impossibly sad closing aria “Tu del ciel ministro eletto”, the consummate pinnacle of dramatic irony in Handel’s output.
By virtue of its flawless dramatic structure as well – unlike many other oratorios and all operas of the Baroque period, the story never goes off at a tangent and all arias revolve around the dispute of the four dramatic personae – the oratorio has enjoyed long runs of widely acclaimed, mostly staged performances in the last few years.