• Email
  • Print

The Other Theodora

In response to:

Brilliant, Beautiful & Byzantine from the September 25, 2008 issue

To the Editors:

G.W. Bowersock’s review of Judith Herrin’s book on Byzantium [NYR, September 25] has unfortunately confused two ladies who shared a name but otherwise led very different lives. The heroine of Handel’s Theodora is a virgin martyr who died in Antioch during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. Her life was as blameless as the Empress Theodora’s was colorful and, according to Procopius, salacious. Had Handel’s Theodora been about the Empress, I suspect that Peter Sellars’s staging of the oratorio at Glyndebourne might have raised even more eyebrows.

Nicholas McGegan

Music Director

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Honorary Professor

Georg-August University

Göttingen, Germany

G.W. Bowersock replies:

Nicholas McGegan is absolutely correct about the identity of Handel’s Theodora, and I can only assume that thinking about Sarah Bernhardt’s Theodora addled my brain. But since my error elicited this delightful letter from the conductor of a great recorded performance of Handel’s oratorio with the incomparable Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, some good has come of it.

  • Email
  • Print