Last updated: Oct. 20, 1999
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Georg Friedrich Händel

ATHALIA

(1733)

An Oratorio; or Sacred Drama

Words by Samuel Humphreys

DRAMATIS PERSONAE


Athalia, Baalite Queen of Judah and Daughter of Jezebel (soprano)

Josabeth, Wife of Joad (soprano)

Joas, King of Judah (boy soprano)

Joad, High Priest (alto)

Mathan, Priest of Baal, formerly a Jewish Priest (tenor)

Abner, Captain of the Jewish Forces (bass)

Chorus of Young Virgins
Chorus of Israelites
Chorus of Priests and Levites
Chorus of Attendants
Chorus of Sidonian Priests


 

ACT ONE

 

1. Overture

Scene 1

Josabeth, Priests and Chorus of Young Virgins and Israelites.

2. Air

Josabeth
Blooming virgins, spotless train,
Tune to transport all your lays!
Hail Jehovah's wond'rous reign,
Wake the dayspring with his praise!
Blooming virgins. . . da capo

3. Chorus

Young Virgins
The rising world Jehovah crown'd
With bright magnificence around!
He hung the radiant orbs on high,
And pour'd the sunbeams through the sky;
He lent the flow'rs their lovely glow,
And breath'd the fragrance they bestow;
The plains with verdant charms array'd,
And beautify'd with green the glade.

Israelites
O mortals, if around us here
So wond'rous all his works appear,
Ah think with awe, ye sons of men,
How wond'rous is their author then!

4. Solo and Chorus

Josabeth
Tyrants would in impious throngs
Silence His adorers' songs;
But shall Salem's lyre and lute
At their proud command be mute?

Israelites
Tyrants, ye in vain conspire!
Wake the lute and strike the lyre!

Josabeth
Why should Salem's lyre and lute
At their proud command be mute?

Israelites
Wake the lute and strike the lyre!

5. Recitative

Abner
When he is in his wrath reveal'd,
Where will the haughty lie conceal'd?

6. Air & Chorus

Abner
When storms the proud to terrors doom,
He forms the dark majestic scene,
He rolls the thunder through the gloom,
And on the whirlwind rides serene.

Israelites
O Judah, boast his matchless law,
Pronounc'd with such tremendous awe!
When tempests his approach proclaim'd,
And Sinah's trembling mountain flam'd,
All Judah then his terrors saw.

Scene 2

Enter Joad.

7. Recitative

Joad
Your sacred songs awhile forbear,
Our festival demands your care;
And now no longer let your stay
The due solemnities delay.

8. Accompagnato

Joad
O Judah, Judah, chosen seed,
To what distress art thou decreed!
How are thy sacred feasts profan'd,
Thy rites with vile pollution strain'd!
Proud Athalia's impious hand
Sheds desolation through the land,
Bids strange, unhallow'd altars flame,
And proudly braves Jehovah's name.

9. Solo and Chorus

Joad
O Lord, whom we adore,
Shall Judah rise no more?
Can this be thy decree.
Hear from thy mercy seat
The groans thy tribes repeat,
The sighs they breathe to thee.

Israelites
Hear from thy mercy seat,
The groans thy tribes repeat,
The sighs they breathe to thee.

Scene 3

Athalia and Chorus of Attendants.

10. Accompagnato

Athalia (starting out of a slumber)
What scenes of horror round me rise!
I shake, I faint, with dire surprise!
Is sleep, that frees the wretch from woe,
To majesty alone a foe?

Enter Abner and Mathan.

11. Recitative

Athalia
O Mathan, aid me to control
The wild confusion of my soul!

Mathan
Why shrinks that mighty soul with fear?
What cares, what danger can be near?

Athalia
E'en now, as I was sunk in deep repose,
My mother's awful form before me rose;
But ah! she chill'd my soul with fear,
For thus she thunder'd in my ear:

12. Accompagnato

Athalia
O Athalia, tremble at thy fate!
For Judah's God pursues thee with His hate,
And will with unrelenting wrath this day
Set all His terrors round thee in array.

13. Chorus of Attendants and Sidonian Priests

The gods, who chosen blessings shed
On majesty's anointed head,
For thee their care will still employ,
And brighten all thy fears to joy.

14. Recitative

Athalia
Her form at this began to fade,
And seem'd dissolving into shade.
In waking starts I vainly press'd
To clasp her to my panting breast:
She, pale, from my embrace withdrew,
And bleeding limbs lay mangled in my view;
The horrid carnage dogs contending tore,
And drank with dreadful thirst the floating gore.

15. Chorus of Attendants and Sidonian Priests

Cheer her, O Baal, with a soft serene,
And in thy votary protect the queen!

16. Recitative

Athalia
Amidst these horrors that my soul dismay'd,
A youth I saw in shining robes array'd,
Such as the priests of Judah wear,
When they for solemn pomp prepare.
His lovely form and winning smile
Suspended all my fears awhile.
But as the young barbarian I caress'd,
He plung'd a dagger deep within my breast.
No efforts could the blow repel,
I shriek'd, I fainted, and I fell.

Mathan
Great queen, be calm! These fears I deem
The birth of a delusive dream.
Let harmony breathe soft around,
For sadness ceases at the sound.

17. Air

Mathan
Gentle airs, melodious strains!
Call for raptures out of woe,
Lull the regal mourners' pains,
Sweetly soothe her as you flow.
Gentle airs. . . da capo

18. Air

Athalia
Softest sounds no more can ease me,
Heav'n a weight of woe decrees me,
Horrors all my hopes destroy.
Whilst such rising torments grieve me,
Tuneful strains can ne'er relieve me,
Vain is the voice of joy.

19. Recitative

Mathan
Swift to the temple let us fly, to know
What mansion hides this youthful foe.

Abner
I'll haste the pontiff to prepare
For this black storm of wild despair.

20. Chorus of Attendants

The traitor, if you there descry,
Oh, let him by the altar die.

Scene 4

Joad, Josabeth, Chorus, and to them Abner.

21. Recitative

Joad
My Josabeth, the grateful time appears
To bid dejected Judah end her fears.

Josabeth
O tell the people, as I oft have craved,
How I from death the royal infant sav'd.

Enter Abner.

Abner
Priest of the living God, with anxious heart
Proud Athalia's purpose I impart.
With vengeful haste she marches here,
To brave the God whom we revere.
She says this pile conceals a youthful foe,
Whose fall, she means, shall end her jealous woe.

Josabeth
Oh, killing shock of unexpected pain!
Oh, innocence, my tender care in vain!
Must I at last my cherish'd joys forgo,
And drink, alas, this bitter cup of woe!

22. Air

Josabeth
Faithful cares in vain extended,
Lovely hopes for ever ended,
Beamy dawn of joy, farewell!
Gentle death, at last reveal me,
For the cruel woes that grieve me,
Thou alone canst now repel!
Faithful cares. . . da capo

23. Recitative

Abner
Oh cease, fair princess, to indulge your woe;
No mortal to your son can prove a foe.

Joad
This grief, O Josabeth, degrades your soul;
Can God no longer Judah's foe control?
I trust he will his gracious care employ,
To make us close this festival with joy.

24. Air & Chorus

Joad
Gloomy tyrants, we disdain
All the terrors you intend.
All your fury will be vain,
And in low confusion end!

Israelites
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

 

ACT TWO

 

Scene 1

The Temple. Joas, Joad, Josabeth, Abner, Priests and Levites.

25. Solo and Chorus

Priests, Levites and Israelites
The mighty pow'r in whom we trust,
Is ever to his promise just;
He makes this sacred day appear
The pledge of a propitious year.

Joad
He bids the circling season shine,
Recalls the olive and the wine,
With blooming plenty loads the plain,
And crowns the fields with golden grain.

Priests, Levites and Israelites
Give glory to His awful name,
Let ev'ry voice His praise proclaim!

26. Air

Josabeth
Through the land so lovely blooming,
Nature all her charms assuming,
Wakes the soul to cheerful praise.
Verdant scenes around us rising,
Each delighted sense surprising,
Softly crown the circling days.
Through the land. . . da capo

27. Recitative

Abner
Ah, were this land from proud oppression freed,
Judea would be bless'd indeed!

Joad
O Abner, wert thou certain that the sword
Had not destroy'd the race by thee deplor'd,
Did one dear branch of that great stem remain:
Wouldst thou, O Abner, then his cause maintain?

28. Air

Abner
Ah, canst thou but prove me!
To vengeance I spring,
No terrors shall move me,
I'll fall for my king.
But whilst you relieve me
Awhile from my pain,
I fear you deceive me
With joys that are vain.
Ah, canst thou. . . da capo

29. Recitative

Joad
Thou dost the ardour that I wish display;
Revisit me before the close of day.
See, see, the proud imperious queen
Approaches with a glaring mien!

Scene 2

Enter Athalia.

Athalia
Confusion to my thoughts, my eyes have view'd
My dreadful vision in this place renew'd!
Through all my veins the chilling horrors run.
Say, Josabeth, is this fair youth thy son?

Josabeth
Though much he merits my fond love, yet he
Is not indebted for his birth to me.

Athalia
Who is thy father? Let his name be known!

Josabeth
He has no father but kind Heav'n alone.

Athalia
Why so officious does thy zeal appear?
I mean the answer from his lips to hear.
How art thou call'd?

Joas
Eliakim.

Athalia
Unfold
Thy father's name!

Joas
In me, alas, behold
An orphan, cast by providence, and ne'er
As yet acquainted who his parents were.

Athalia
Give me to understand whose tender cares
Sustain'd and rear'd thee in thy infant years?

30. Air

Joas
Will God, whose mercies ever flow,
Expose his children's youth to woe?
The little birds his bounty taste,
All nature with his gifts are grac'd.
Each day his care I implore,
He feeds me from his altar's store.

31. Recitative

Athalia
'Tis my intention, lovely youth, that you
A scene more suited to your worth shall view;
You to the palace shall this day repair,
And live consigned to Athalia's care.

Joas
Shall I behold the God by whom I'm bless'd
Profan'd by you with rites that I detest?

Athalia
Princess, in discipline you much excel;
Whate'er you dictate he remembers well.
But be assured that one revolving hour
Shall snatch your learned pupil from your pow'r.

32. Air

Athalia
My vengeance awakes me,
Compassion forsakes me,
All softness and mercy away!
My foes with confusion
Shall find their illusion
And tremble before me today.
My vengeance awakes me. . . da capo

Exit Athalia.

33. Duet

Josabeth
My spirits fail, I faint, I die!

Joas
Ah, why?

Josabeth
The grave shall hide my head!

Joas
Is hope for ever fled?

Josabeth
My grief's too great to bear,
For thee sorrows rend me.

Joas
Kind Heav'n will defend me.

Josabeth
Thy ardours affect me.

Joas
He sure will protect me.

Josabeth
Whate'er this tyrant may decree,
O God, I place my trust in thee!

Scene 3

Re-enter to them Joad, Chorus of Young Virgins, and Chorus of Priests and Levites.

34. Recitative

Joad
Dear Josabeth, I trembled whilst my woe
Did in its first emotions wildly flow;
But when at last thou didst the pang control,
My fading joy re-kindled in my soul.

35. Duet

Joad
Cease thy anguish, smile once more,
Let thy tears no longer flow!
Judah's God, whom we adore,
Soon to joy will change thy woe.

Josabeth
All his mercies I review,
Gladly with a grateful heart,
And I trust he will renew
Blessings he did once impart.

Both
Whate'er this tyrant may decree,
Returning joys we soon shall see.

36. Recitative

Abner
Joad, ere day has ended half his race,
Again expect me in this sacred place.

37. Chorus

Young Virgins
The clouded scene begins to clear,
And joys in single trains appear.

Priests and Levites
When crimes aloud for vengeance call,
The guilty will be doomed to fall.

Tutti
Rejoice, O Judah, in thy God,
The proud alone shall feel his rod!
Whilst blessings, with a mild decree,
His mercy now prepares for thee.

 

ACT THREE

 

Scene 1

Joad, Joas, Josabeth, Chorus of Young Virgins, Chorus of Priests and Levites.

38. Accompagnato

Joad
What sacred horrors shake my breast!
Ah, 'tis the pow'r divine confess'd!
Who can his energy control?
He comes, he comes, and fires my soul!

39. Chorus of Virgins, Priests and Levites

Unfold, great seer, what Heav'n imparts,
And speak glad tidings to our hearts!

40. Accompagnato

Joad
Let harmony breathe soft around,
And aid my raptures with the sound!

41. Solo and Chorus

Joad
Jerusalem, thou shalt no more
A tyrant's guilty reign deplore;
No longer with dejected brow
Shall solitary sit as now.
Her fury soon shall cease to grieve thee,
Destin'd vengeance swiftly flies!
Heav'n itself will now relieve me!
See, she falls, she bleeds, she dies!

Virgins, Priests and Levites
O shining mercy, gracious pow'r
That aids us in the needful hour!

42. Recitative

Joad
Eliakim

Joas
My father!

Joad
Let me know:
Should Heav'n on thee a diadem bestow,
What reign of Judah's kings wouldst thou that day
Choose for the model of thy future sway?

Joas
Should God such glory for my lot ordain,
Like righteous David I would wish to reign.

Joad
O Joas, O my king, thus low to thee
I pay the homage of my bended knee!

Joas
Is this reality, or kind deceit?
Ah, can I see my father at my feet?

Josabeth
Ye sacred bands, who serve the God of truth,
Revere your sov'reign in that royal youth!

43. Chorus of Virgins, Priests and Levites

With firm united hearts, we all
Will conquer in his cause, or fall!

Scene 2

Enter Mathan.

44. Recitative

Mathan
O princess, I approach thee to declare
How much thy welfare is my care.

Josabeth
What means, proud Mathan, thy intrusion here?
Has Heav'n no vengeance for thy crimes to fear?

Mathan
Fair Josabeth, though you insult me so,
Trust me, in Mathan you behold no foe!

45. Air

Josabeth
Soothing tyrant, falsely smiling,
Virtue's foes I ne'er shall fear;
Flatt'ring sounds and looks beguiling
Lose their artful meaning here.
Go, thou vain deceiver, go,
Alike to me a friend or foe!

Scene 3

Re-enter Joad.

46. Recitative

Joad
Apostate priest! How canst thou dare
To violate this house of pray'r?

Mathan
Joad, I scorn thy proud insulting mien;
Prepare to answer thy offended queen!

Scene 4

Enter Athalia, Abner and Chorus of Sidonian Priests.

Athalia
O bold seducer, art thou there?
Where is the youth, inform me, where?

Joad
Ye priests, the youth before her bring!
Proud woman, there, behold our king!

47. Solo and Chorus

Virgins, Priests and Levites
Around let acclamations ring:
Hail, royal youth, hail royal youth,
Long live the king!

Joad
Reviving Judah shall no more
Detested images adore;
We'll purge with a reforming hand
Idolatry from out the land.
May God, from whom all mercies spring,
Bless the true church, and save the king!

Virgins, Priests and Levites
Bless the true church, and save the king!

48. Recitative

Athalia
Oh, treason, treason, impious scene!
Abner, avenge thy injur'd queen!

Joad
Great chief, behold thy royal Joas there,
Preserv'd by Josabeth's successful care!
Thy dauntless loyalty of soul I know,
Thou canst not be to David's race a foe.

Abner
Does Heav'n this blessing then at last accord?
O royal Joas, O my honour'd Lord!

49. Air

Abner
Oppression, no longer I dread thee,
Thy terrors, proud queen, I despise!
Thy crimes to confusion have led thee,
And Judah triumphant shall rise!

50. Recitative

Athalia
Where I am? Furies, wild despair!
Where are my guards, my vassals, where?
Mathan, invoke thy God to shed
His vengeance on each rebel's head!

Mathan
He hears no more, our hopes are past,
The Hebrews' God prevails at last!
Alas, alas, my broken vow,
His dreadful hand is on me now!

51. Air

Mathan
Hark! His thunders round me roll,
His angry, awful frowns I see,
His arrows wound my trembling soul:
Is no more mercy left for me?
Ah no, he now denies to save.
Open, O earth, and be my grave!

52. Recitative

Joad
Yes, proud apostate, thou shalt fall,
Thy crimes aloud for vengeance call!

Athalia
I see all hopes, all succours fail,
And Judah's God will now prevail;
I see my death this day decreed,
But, traitors, I can dare to bleed.
Let Jezebel's great soul my bosom fill,
And ev'n in death, proud priest, I'll triumph still.

53. Air

Athalia
To darkness eternal
And horrors infernal
Undaunted I'll hasten away.
O tyrants, your treason
Shall in the due season
Weep blood for this barbarous day.

Scene the last

Joas, Joad, Josabeth, Abner and Chorus.

54. Recitative

Joad
Now, Josabeth, thy fears are o'er.

Josabeth
Bless'd be his name, whom we adore.

55. Duet

Joad
Joys, in gentle trains appearing,
Heav'n does to my fair impart;
And, to make them more endearing,
I shall share them with my heart!

Josabeth
Softest joys would but deceive me,
Hadst thou not thy happy part;
O my dearest lord, believe me,
Thou shalt share them with my heart.

Both
I / You shall / shalt share them with my / thy heart.

56. Recitative

Abner
Rejoice, O Judah, this triumphant day!
Let all the goodness of our God display,
Whose mercies to the wond'ring world declare
His chosen people are his chosen care.

57. Chorus of Virgins, Priests, Levites, Israelites

Give glory to His awful name,
Let ev'ry voice His praise proclaim!


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