In 1750, in ailing health, Handel presented his penultimate oratorio, Theodora, to a sceptical London public at the Covent Garden Theatre. His circle of musicians and friends admired it but it flopped — perhaps because the subject matter, the story of early Christian martyrs, flummoxed audiences who’d have preferred a tub-thumping Old Testament tale instead. I would defy anyone, however, not to succumb to the First Act aria sung by the character of Irene. “As with rosy steps the morn/ Advancing, drives the shade of night . . .” It’s a song of prophecy that, spoken in the darkest times, seduces the listener with “hopes of endless light”.

Theodora is still rarely performed on world stages, although it was a huge hit at Glyndebourne.

Read the rest of the interview on The Times