Handel considered Theodora the greatest of his oratorios. Few today would disagree with him, though it was surprisingly unsuccessful at its Covent Garden premiere in 1750, and the Royal Opera’s new production effectively marks its overdue homecoming. Notoriety, however, began to cling to Katie Mitchell’s staging well before opening night, thanks to trigger warnings about “explicit violence” on the Royal Opera website, and the much reported employment of intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien to ensure the performers felt comfortable with the sex scenes. All this has to some extent been a bit of a distraction, as the production is for the most part a reined-in affair, and neither particularly explicit (either sexually or in its depiction of violence) nor quite as inflammatory as anticipated.
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