Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts



First Advisor

Cynthia Lawrence-Calkins


From the early 20th century to the present, new discoveries in Handel scholarship and changing ideas of Baroque performance practice have greatly affected the manner in which Handel’s operas and individual arias have been performed. Since the appearance of the first volumes of the Hallische Handel-Ausgabe in 1958, Handel’s works have experienced a renewed appreciation among performers and scholars alike, including countless opera productions. Since the introduction of the CD, many talented singers have published recordings of his operas and individual arias, influenced by a greater under-standing of period-performance practices and audience expectations. As such, performers are expected to be conversant in Baroque-period performance practices, especially improvised embellishments. However, many published recordings of Baroque arias seem more focused on demonstrating virtuosic vocal technique than historically informed ornaments, leading to an indiscriminate application of excessive, stylistically inappropriate embellishments among performers.

Handel’s Italian singers were experts in vocal ornamentation; thus, he did not notate expected ornaments on the scores. However, Winton Dean’s composite volume Three Ornamented Arias provides Handel’s notations of intended embellishments to these works. In order to consider period-appropriate embellishments in other operatic arias by Handel, this study will 1) compare Handel’s notated embellishments in relation to the unembellished score, and 2) examine Robert Donington’s recommendations for specific ornaments in Baroque Music: Style and Performance. In doing so, I will provide an authentic, historically informed view of embellishments and ornaments in Baroque music.

This project will focus on the performance practice of Baroque ornamentation in Handel’s arias in the 20th and 21st centuries, as reflected in authentic Baroque performance practice and selected recordings. Handel’s four soprano arias: Lascia ch’io pianga, V’adoro pupille, Piangerò la sorte mia, and Tornami a vagheggiar will be discussed to compare changing ideas of vocal ornamentation through selected recordings from the late 1950s and until the 2010s.

The selection of recordings will be considered in relation to the ‘well-known’ virtuosos, Baroque music singers, and conductors as well. Based on the investigation of Handelian performance practices, this paper will provide a framework for critically evaluating improvised embellishments in published recordings, which may be 1) deficiently ornamented, 2) stylistically appropriate, or 3) excessively ornamented.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)