Prompt book for 'Radamisto' by George Friedrich Handel
This printed libretto, annotated in two different hands, is the only extant prompt of a Handel opera dating from his lifetime. It shows the Italian words as sung on the left with the English translation on the right to guide the audience through the plot (at this point, the auditorium was not darkened during performances).
The annotations in this copy reveal information not usually known about productions in this period. For example, notes as to the number of attendants present on stage at various points (communicating the status of the leading characters), points of entry from left or right and the number and nature of the different stage settings required, including a practical bridge capable of bearing the weight of attendant Soldiers 'with Pikes'.
Sound effects are also mentioned, notably, Zenobia's attempt to drown herself by jumping into the river is preceded by the note 'stone ready'. This is a note to the backstage hand to get a stone ready to throw into a tank of water.
It was not normal practice to print the libretto far enough in advance of the performance for it to be annotated by the stage management, which makes this copy even more unique and puzzling to scholars.
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Opera by George Friedrich Handel