Apollo e Dafne (Handel)

Apollo e Dafne (Apollo and Daphne) HWV 122 is a secular cantata composed by Handel in 1709-10. Handel began the work in Venice in 1709, but completed it in Hanover after arriving to take up his appointment as Kapellmeister to the Elector in 1710. The work is one of Handel's most ambitious cantatas, and is indicative of the brilliant operatic career to follow in the next 30 years of his life.

The work's original overture has not survived and therefore another of the composer's instrumental works is sometimes substituted as an introduction. The cantata's instrumentation is bright as Handel adds a flute, a pair of oboes and a bassoon to the usual strings.

The work takes just over 40 minutes to perform.


Apollo, having released Greece from tyranny by killing a menacing python, is in an arrogant mood. He boasts that even Cupid’s archery is no match for his own bow and arrow; however his conceit is shattered upon spying the lovely Daphne. Apollo is instantly smitten and plies his full range of charms in an attempt to win Daphne’s favour. Naturally distrustful, she rejects his advances, stating that she would rather die than lose her honour. Apollo becomes more forceful in insisting that she yield to his love and physically takes hold of her. When all seems lost, Daphne manages to escape his clutches by transforming herself into a laurel tree. Displaying great sorrow, Apollo states that his tears will water her green leaves and that her triumphant branches will be used to crown the greatest heroes.

Dramatis personae

* Apollo (bass)
* Daphne (soprano)


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