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Handel by Edward J. Dent

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[Illustration: G. F. HANDEL _from a woodcut by Eric King_]



_Chapter_ I

Birth and parentage--studies under Zachow at Halle--Hamburg--friendship and
duel with Mattheson--_Almira_--departure for Italy.

_Chapter_ II

Arrival in Italy--_Rodrigo_--Rome: Cardinal Ottoboni and the
Scarlattis--Naples: Venice: _Agrippina_--appointment at Hanover--London:

_Chapter_ III

Second visit to London--Italian opera--George I and the _Water
Music_--visit to Germany--Canons and the Duke of Chandos--establishment of
the Royal Academy of Music.

_Chapter_ IV

Buononcini--Cuzzoni, Faustina, and Senesino--death of George I--_The
Beggar's Opera_--collapse of the Academy.

_Chapter_ V

Handel naturalized--partnership with Heidegger--_Esther_--the Opera of
the Nobility--visit to Oxford--opera season at Covent Garden--Charles
Jennens--collapse of both opera-houses.

_Chapter_ VI

Bankruptcy and paralysis--visit to Aix-la-Chapelle--the last
operas--Vauxhall Gardens--Handel's "borrowings"--visit to
Ireland--_Messiah_ and other oratorios.

_Chapter_ VII

_Judas Maccabaeus_--Gluck--Thomas Morell--incipient blindness--Telemann and
his garden--last oratorios--death--character and personality.

_Bibliography and List of Works_


1685.... Birth at Halle.
1702.... Entered University; organist of the Cathedral.
1703.... Went to Hamburg.
1705.... First opera: _Almira_ (Hamburg).
1707.... Arrival in Italy.
1710.... Appointment at Hanover; first visit to London.
1711.... First London opera: _Rinaldo_.
1712.... Second visit to London.
1717.... Appointment to the Duke of Chandos.
1720.... Opening of Royal Academy of Music (Opera).
1726.... Naturalized as a British subject.
1728.... _The Beggar's Opera_. Collapse of the Academy.
1732.... First public oratorio: _Esther_.
1733.... Festival at Oxford.
1737.... Collapse of Opera; Handel bankrupt and paralysed.
1741.... Last opera: _Deidamia_.
1742.... _Messiah_ at Dublin.
1751.... First signs of blindness. Last oratorio _Jeptha_.
1759.... Death in London.


Birth and parentage--studies under Zachow at Halle--Hamburg--friendship and
duel with Mattheson--Almira--departure for Italy.

The name of Handel suggests to most people the sound of music unsurpassed
in massiveness and dignity, and the familiar portraits of the composer
present us with a man whose external appearance was no less massive and
dignified than his music. Countless anecdotes point him out to us as a
well-known figure in the life of London during the reigns of Queen Anne
and the first two Georges. He lies buried in Westminster Abbey. One would
expect every detail of his life to be known and recorded, his every private
thought to be revealed with the pellucid clarity of his immortal strains.
It is not so; to assemble the bare facts of Handel's life is a problem
which has baffled the most laborious of his biographers, and his inward
personality is more mysterious than that of any other great musician of the
last two centuries.

The _Memoirs of the Life of the late George Frederic Handel_, written by
the Rev. John Mainwaring in 1760, a year after his death, is the first
example of a whole book devoted to the biography of a musician. The author
had never known Handel himself; he obtained his material chiefly from
Handel's secretary, John Christopher Smith the younger. Mainwaring is our
only authority for the story of Handel's early life. Many of his statements
have been proved to be untrue, but there is undoubtedly a foundation of
truth beneath most of them, however misleading either Smith's memory or
Mainwaring's imagination may have been. The rest of our knowledge has to
be built up from scattered documents of various kinds, helped out by the
reminiscences of Dr. Burney and Sir John Hawkins. For the inner life of
Mozart and Beethoven we can turn to copious letters and other personal
writings; Handel's extant letters do not amount to more than about twenty
in all, and it is only rarely that they throw much light on the workings of
his mind.

The family of Handel belonged originally to Breslau. The name is found
in various forms; it seems originally to have been _Haendeler_ signifying
trader, but by the time the composer was born the spelling _Haendel_ had
been adopted. This is the correct German form of his name; in Italy he
wrote his name _Hendel_, in order to ensure its proper pronunciation, and
in England he was known, for the same reason, as Handel. The Handels of
Breslau had for several generations been coppersmiths. Valentine Handel,
the composer's grandfather, born in 1582, migrated to Halle, where two of
his sons followed the same trade. His third son, George, born 1622, became
a barber-surgeon. At the age of twenty he married the widow of the barber
to whom he had been apprenticed; she was twelve years older than he was. In
1682 she died, and George Handel, although sixty years of age, married a
second wife within half a year. Her name was Dorothea Taust; her father,
like most of his ancestors, was a clergyman. Her age was thirty-two. Her
first child, born in 1684, died at birth; her second, born February 23,
1685, was baptised the following day with the name of George Frederic.

The town of Halle had originally belonged to the Dukes of Saxony, but after
the Thirty Years' War it was assigned to the Elector of Brandenburg. George
Frederic Handel was therefore born a Prussian. But Duke Augustus of Saxony
was allowed to keep his court at the Moritzburg in Halle, and it was this
prince who made George Handel his personal surgeon. After Duke Augustus's
death in 1680, Halle was definitely transferred to Brandenburg, and the new
Duke, Johann Adolf, took up his residence at Weissenfels, twenty-five miles
to the south-west of Halle. At the time of George Frederic's birth, Halle
had relapsed into being a quiet provincial town. The musical life of
Germany in those days was chiefly centred in the numerous small courts,
each of which did its best to imitate the magnificence of Louis XIV at
Paris and Versailles. But the seventeenth century, although it produced
very few musicians of outstanding greatness, was a century of restless
musical activity throughout Europe, especially in the more private and
domestic branches of the art. The Reformation had made music the vehicle of
personal devotion, and the enormous output of a peculiarly intimate type of
sacred music, both in Germany and in England, shows that there must have
been a keen demand for it in Protestant home life.

George Handel, the surgeon, seems to have hated music. There is no evidence
that either his wife or her sister, who shared their home after her
father's death in 1685, was musically gifted, but the mere fact of their
being the daughters of a Lutheran pastor makes it probable that they had
had some education in the art. We may safely guess that the composer
inherited his musical talents from the Taust family. He showed his
inclination for music at a very early age, with such insistence indeed
that his father forbade him to touch any musical instrument. There is a
well-known story of his contriving to smuggle a clavichord into a garret
without his father's knowledge in order to practise on it while the rest of
the family were asleep, but for this tale Mainwaring is our only authority.
It is very probable that old Handel was irritated by the sound of his son's
early efforts and regarded music as a waste of time; his wife may perhaps
have encouraged the child's obvious abilities, taking care that he made
music only in some part of the house where he would not disturb his father.

At the age of seven he was sent to the Lutheran Grammar School, and he may
very likely have had some instruction in singing while there. In any case
there can be no doubt that he was taught more than the mere rudiments of
music in childhood, however severe his father's opposition may have been.
He was between seven and nine when his father took him to Weissenfels,
where he was required to attend on the Duke. It is quite probable that the
child may have been taken there several times, especially as a relative
of his was in regular service in the Duke's establishment. One day he was
allowed to play on the organ in the palace chapel; the Duke happened to
hear him, made enquiries as to who the player was, and at once urged on the
father the duty of having him properly trained for a musical career.

Old Handel remained obstinate; he was determined that his son should have
a liberal education and become a lawyer. By his own efforts he had raised
himself to a position of some distinction and affluence; it was only
natural that he should wish his son to enter on life with better advantages
than he himself had enjoyed. He at any rate followed the advice of the Duke
so far as to place the boy under the musical tuition of Friedrich Zachow,
the organist of the Lutheran church at Halle.

The next episode in George Frederic's career has considerably puzzled his
biographers. Mainwaring asserts that in 1698 he went to Berlin, where he
was presented to the Electress Sophia Charlotte and made the acquaintance
of Ariosti and Giovanni Battista Buononcini, two famous Italian opera
composers whom he was to encounter again, in London, many years later. But
it is known that Ariosti did not arrive in Berlin until the spring of 1697,
and Buononcini not until 1702. And as old Handel died in February 1697, his
son cannot have been in Berlin later than about the end of 1696, if it is
true (as Mainwaring says) that the Elector offered to send him to Italy, an
offer which the father firmly refused to accept for him. If, on the other
hand, Mainwaring is right in saying that young Handel went to Berlin with a
view to obtaining a musical post there, it is hardly likely that he should
have made the journey at ten years of age, and while his father was still
living. It seems much more probable that if he ever did visit Berlin it was
when he was of an age to form his own judgments as to his future career.

Three days before his seventeenth birthday he matriculated as a law student
of the University of Halle, but music must have been the chief occupation
of his time. The composer Telemann, four years his senior, spoke of him
as being already a musician of importance at Halle when he first met him
there, probably in 1700. In March 1702 he was appointed organist at the
Cathedral, although he belonged to the Lutheran Church, whereas the
Cathedral was Calvinist; considerable scandal had been caused by the
intemperance of the Cathedral organist, one Leporin, who was finally
dismissed. That Handel should have been given the post at so early an age
points to his ability and trustworthiness of character; it also suggests
that efficient organists were rare among the Calvinist musicians.

Mainwaring unjustly credited Zachow with Leporin's love of a cheerful
glass, and other biographers have perhaps for this reason greatly
underrated Zachow's musicianship. Zachow cannot indeed be classed as a
great composer, but he was considerably more than merely a sound average
teacher. For one thing, he possessed a large library of music. Handel was
not only made to master the arts of counterpoint and fugue, but he was also
set to study the works of other composers, and to train his sense of style
by writing music in direct imitation of them. In those days there was
no possibility of buying all sorts of music ready printed. Printing was
expensive, and generally clumsy in execution as well; most music was copied
by hand, and a musician who wished to acquire a library of music generally
did so by borrowing it and copying it. Zachow employed Handel to copy music
for him, and no doubt he copied a great deal for himself. Although the
opportunities for hearing music would not be very liberal in a town like
Halle, Handel, under Zachow, became a well-read musician as well as an
accomplished one.

During the seventeenth century the chief contribution of Germany to the
art of music was religious, just as the German hymns were her chief
contribution to poetry. In Italy, on the other hand, sacred music was of
minor importance as compared with the development of opera. But in all
music Italy led the way, and German sacred music was constantly influenced
by the Italians, with the result that Italian dramatic methods were often
used by German composers of sacred music, not with any loss of seriousness
and dignity to its character, but rather to the intenser expression of that
deep personal religious feeling which characterised both the poetry and the
music of the Protestant nations.

Zachow was well acquainted with the Italian masters, and his own Church
music shows a vivid dramatic sense; it is easy to see how much Handel
learned from him. But although Church cantatas and organ music may have
sufficed for the majority of the innumerable worthy German musicians of
those days, the form of music which excited the curiosity and interest of
the livelier spirits was certainly opera. By 1700, opera had established
itself all over Italy, supported mainly by the great princes, but at Venice
maintained on a commercial basis by the citizens themselves since 1637. The
first attempt at a German opera was made by Heinrich Schuetz, at Torgau,
ten years earlier. Vienna introduced Italian opera in 1631, and, generally
speaking, the Catholic princes of Germany, who one after another followed
the example of Vienna, preferred opera in Italian. Protestant Germany
inclined more to opera in its own language, though towards the end of the
century Italian gradually gained the upper hand at the more important
courts. Native German opera owed its origin partly to the visit of the
English comedians early in the century, and partly to the musical plays
acted by school-boys; from the English "jigs" came the use of short popular
songs, and from the school plays the tendency of the early German operas to
be of a more or less sacred or edifying character.

Handel's friend, the composer Telemann, tells us that it was not unusual
for students from the University of Leipzig to go to Berlin to hear the
Italian opera, which had been established by the Electress Sophia Charlotte
in 1700, and this suggests that Handel's visit to Berlin may have
taken place in 1703 rather than in his childhood. But he certainly had
opportunities for seeing operas nearer home. There had been many German
operas performed at Halle itself during the twenty years before Handel's
birth, and Duke Johann Adolf opened an opera-house at Weissenfels in 1685,
in which Philipp Krieger produced German operas regularly for the next
thirty years. There was thus every reason for young Handel's growing
ambitious to become a composer for the stage, although we have no evidence
of his having ever attempted dramatic composition until he left Halle in

The most important of all the north German opera-houses was that of
Hamburg, where the opera did not depend on the patronage of a court,
but was organised, as at Venice, as a public entertainment. Hamburg had
attempted German opera as early as 1648, and it is interesting to note that
the English composer William Brade was one of those who provided the music;
but the real history of the Hamburg opera may be said to begin with the
performance of Theile's _Adam and Eve_ in the newly built theatre in the
Goose-Market in 1678. When Handel arrived in Hamburg in the summer of 1703
the biblical operas had long come to an end, and the theatre was under the
management of Reinhold Keiser.

Keiser was a musician of remarkable genius. His father was a disreputable
organist, and his mother a young lady of noble family who had been hastily
married at the age of sixteen. Born near Weissenfels in 1674, he had begun
his operatic career at Brunswick at the age of eighteen; three years later
he took over the direction of the opera at Hamburg, where he produced a
large number of operas composed by himself. As a composer, Keiser had a
singular fluency of melody in a style that hovers between those of Germany
and Italy; had he been a man of more solid character he might have
accomplished greater things. But he had inherited from his parents a love
of pleasure and debauchery; extravagant in his private life, he was no less
extravagant in his theatrical management, and was ready to provide his
audiences with anything in the way of startling sensation. One of his most
famous operas was on the subject of Stoertebeker, a notorious highwayman
(1704), in which murders were represented with the most disgusting realism.

Hamburg was the Venice of the north and, like Venice, a city of pleasure;
but its pleasures were often of a coarse and licentious description. Life
in Hamburg was probably not much unlike that of Restoration London; but
though Keiser may well be set beside Purcell, Hamburg had no dramatists to
compare with Congreve, hardly even with Shadwell. Jeremy Collier, however,
was far outdone in vituperation by the puritan clergy who, not altogether
without reason, castigated the immorality of the Hamburg stage.

Handel seems to have arrived in Hamburg in early summer of 1703, for we
first hear of him there on July 2, when he met Johann Mattheson in the
church of St. Mary Magdalen. It seems to have been a chance acquaintance,
to judge from Mattheson's account; it stuck in Mattheson's memory for many
years and he remembered especially the pastry-cook's boy who blew the organ
for Handel and himself. Mattheson was four years older than Handel; he was
one of those precociously gifted, versatile, attractive, and rather vain
young men who are endowed with so many talents that they never achieve
distinction in any branch of art. He is remembered now only by the literary
work of his later life, in which he shows himself as a voluminous pedant
and an embittered critic. He made friends with Handel on the spot, and took
him under his own protection, providing him with almost daily free meals
at his father's house. He evidently regarded him as a very simple and
provincial young musician, a notable organist indeed, and a master of such
learned devices as counterpoint and fugue, but a dull composer, turning out
endless arias and cantatas with no sense of the fashionable Italian taste.

It was Mattheson, by his own account, who introduced Handel to the musical
life of Hamburg. The opera was closed for the summer, and Keiser's
celebrated winter concerts, at which the wealthy society of Hamburg
listened to the most famous singers and regaled themselves with tokay, had
not yet begun; but there was no lack of social distractions, in which music
no doubt played its part. In August the two friends made a journey to
Lubeck, to compete for the post of organist at the Marienkirche in
succession to Dietrich Buxtehude, who was nearly seventy and ready to
retire. But both Buxtehude and the town council insisted that the new
organist should marry his predecessor's daughter, in order to save the town
the necessity of providing for her; she was considerably older than the
two youthful candidates, and they both withdrew in haste. Late in life
Mattheson married the daughter of an English clergyman; Handel remained a
bachelor to the end of his days.

It was no doubt through Mattheson that Handel, in the autumn, entered the
opera band as a humble second violinist. He seems to have been of a very
retiring and quiet disposition, although of a dry humour. Opera management
at Hamburg was no less precarious than it was in London; Keiser could
not afford the Italian singers patronised by the German princes, and his
performances had often to be helped out by amateurs of all classes. On one
occasion the harpsichord-player failed him; Handel took his place at
short notice, and his musicianship was at once recognised. Unfortunately
Mattheson, whose chronology is always rather uncertain, does not tell us
when this occurred. In addition to his duties in the orchestra, Handel
earned a living by teaching private pupils, and through Mattheson he was
engaged by Mr. John Wyche, the English Envoy, as music-master to his small
son Cyril.

Early in 1704 Mattheson went to Holland, where he had some success in
organising concerts at Amsterdam, and was offered the post of organist at
Haarlem. He seems to have had some idea of seeking his fortune in England;
he spoke English well, and may have had useful connexions in England
through Mr. John Wyche. But in March Handel wrote to him that the Hamburg
opera could not get on without him, and to Hamburg he returned. It soon
must have become clear to him that Handel was rapidly outgrowing any need
of his condescending patronage. A _Passion according to St. John_, the
words of which had been written by Postel, an opera-poet turned pietist,
had been set to music by Handel, and performed on Good Friday with marked
success. Mattheson arrived too late to hear it, but it is significant that
twenty years later he published a scathing criticism of it, although it is
a work of little importance in relation to Handel's complete career, and
can seldom have been performed. A Passion oratorio by Keiser was produced
at the same time, it may well have been that Handel's work, youthful and
conventional as it is, was enough to arouse the jealousy of both Keiser and

Shortly after Easter, Keiser began the composition of a new opera,
_Almira_, on a libretto by the local poet Feustking, but for some reason or
other he found it necessary to call in Handel's assistance, and eventually
left the whole work to Handel to compose. It was to be produced in the
autumn. Handel seems to have consulted Mattheson over every detail of the
opera; there exists a complete score in Mattheson's handwriting, with
corrections and additions by Handel. Mattheson spent the summer enjoying a
country holiday in Mecklenburg; Handel probably went on with his opera,
at Hamburg. In October, just as the opera season was reopening, Mattheson
contrived to get himself engaged by Sir Cyril Wych as tutor to his son;
he also took over the boy's musical education, hinting that Handel
was dismissed for neglect of his duties. In view of Handel's strictly
honourable character it is difficult to believe that he was guilty of
neglect, and we may naturally suppose him to have resented the loss of a
lucrative appointment.

The first opera of the autumn was not Handel's _Almira_, but an opera by
Mattheson, called _Cleopatra_. Mattheson, always eager to exhibit his
versatility, sang the part of Antony himself, and, not content with that,
came into the orchestra as soon as Antony had died on the stage and kept
himself in view of the audience by conducting at the harpsichord. For
several performances Handel made no objection and gave up his seat to
Mattheson when the moment came, but on December 5, for some reason or
other, he refused, to the surprise and indignation of the composer. German
musicians in those days were a quarrelsome crew; at the court of Stuttgart
the musicians were so much given to knocking each other on the head with
their instruments, even in the august presence of His Serene Highness, that
there was hardly one left undamaged. It was only to be expected that the
friends of Handel and Mattheson should egg them on to fight a duel in the
street; luckily Mattheson's sword broke on a button of Handel's coat, and
the duel ended. On December 30 a town councillor effected a reconciliation;
the rivals dined together at Mattheson's house and went on to the rehearsal
of _Almira_, which was brought out on January 8, 1705, with Mattheson as
the principal tenor.

_Almira_, the libretto of which was partly in German and partly in Italian,
ran continuously for about twenty performances until February 25, when it
was succeeded by _Nero_, another opera which Handel had hastily composed
for the occasion. _Nero_, in which Mattheson sang the title part, was a
failure. The music is lost, but the libretto survives, and that is enough
to account for the collapse. The opera had three performances only. In the
very same season Keiser re-set _Nero_ to music himself, and brought it
out under the title of _Octavia_; shortly afterwards he did the same with
_Almira_, which was performed in August of the same year. Although Keiser's
operas were no more successful than Handel's, and his extravagance and
mismanagement forced him to leave Hamburg for three years in order to avoid
imprisonment, it is evident that he had made Handel's position in the
theatre impossible. Handel withdrew into private life and devoted himself
to earning a living by teaching. Mattheson says that Handel remained in
Hamburg until 1709, and that he still worked in the theatre, but the first
of these statements is certainly untrue, and the second probably so.
Mattheson himself left the theatre after the failure of Handel's _Nero_,
and his friendship with Handel seems to have come to an end. About Handel's
subsequent life in Hamburg we know nothing, until the theatre was taken
over by one Saurbrey in the autumn of 1706. Saurbrey commissioned an opera
from Handel, but, owing to the confusion in which Keiser had left the
affairs of the theatre, it could not be brought out until January 1708,
when it was found to be so long that it had to be divided into two operas,
_Florindo_ and _Daphne_, both of which were put on the stage successively.
By that time Handel had left Hamburg for Italy; he evidently took little
interest in the production of these works, neither of which has survived.

It was during the run of _Almira_, says Mainwaring, that Handel made the
acquaintance of Prince Gian Gastone de' Medici, son of the Grand Duke Cosmo
III of Tuscany. Mainwaring's date is wrong, for it is known that Gian
Gastone at that time was in Bohemia with his wife, a German princess, to
whom he had been married against his will. But it is also known that he was
in Hamburg for a few months during the winter of 1703-04, and, if he met
Handel at that time, the rest of Mainwaring's story becomes much more
credible than subsequent biographers have been willing to admit. According
to Mainwaring, Handel became almost an intimate friend of the Prince; they
often discussed music together, and the Prince lamented that Handel was
unacquainted with the music and musical life of Italy. "Handel confessed
that he could see nothing in Italian music which answered the high
character His Highness had given it. On the contrary, he thought it so very
indifferent, that the singers, he said, must be angels to recommend it."
Gian Gastone urged him to come to Italy and hear for himself, intimating
"that if he chose to return with him, no conveniences should be wanting."
Handel declined the invitation, but resolved to go to Italy as soon as he
could do so "on his own bottom."

Gian Gastone was a spendthrift and a profligate; his moral reputation was
of the worst, and he was chronically in debt. That, however, would not make
it unthinkable that after a glass of wine he should invite Handel to come
to Italy with him, but Handel may well have known enough about the Prince
even then to reply to the proposal with tactful evasiveness. From what
Mattheson says of Handel on his first arrival in Hamburg, it is quite
likely that he was contemptuous of Italian opera music, and it is equally
likely that after the success of _Almira_ his views on Italian opera
underwent a change. It is obvious that Hamburg had no further chances to
offer him, and the attraction of Italy was at that time so vivid to
all young German musicians that not one of them would have refused an
opportunity of making the journey.

The date of Handel's departure from Hamburg is unknown, nor have we the
slightest information as to his whereabouts until we hear of him at Rome in
January 1707. Chrysander's statement that he spent Christmas 1706 with his
mother at Halle is manifestly untrue. Mattheson says that he travelled to
Rome with a Herr von Binitz, but nothing is known of this gentleman. His
most natural route into Italy would be by the Brenner, the historic road of
all German pilgrims.

Handel may well have been glad to leave Hamburg, but Hamburg did not forget
him. He is mentioned in a theatrical manifesto of 1708 as being already
"beloved and celebrated in Italy"; Barthold Feind, one of the Hamburg
librettists, who in 1715 translated Handel's _Rinaldo_, called him "the
incomparable Handel, the Orpheus of our time"; and from 1715 to 1734 almost
all of Handel's London operas were represented on the Hamburg stage.


Arrival in Italy--_Rodrigo_--Rome: Cardinal Ottoboni and the
Scarlattis--Naples: Venice: _Agrippina_--appointment at Hanover--London:

Handel spent three years in Italy. The known facts about his life there are
singularly few, and his biographers have often had to draw copiously on
their imagination. They may perhaps be forgiven for doing so, since they
rightly sought to emphasise the fact that these three years were the most
formative period of Handel's personality as a composer. Handel came to
Italy as a German; he left Italy an Italian, as far as his music was
concerned, and, despite all other influences, Italian was the foundation of
his musical language until the end of his life.

On January 14, 1707, a Roman chronicler noted the arrival of "a Saxon, an
excellent player on the harpsichord and a composer of music, who has to-day
displayed his ability in playing the organ in the church of St. John
[Lateran] to the amazement of everyone." This can hardly refer to anyone
else than Handel, who throughout his sojourn in Italy was always known as
"the Saxon" (_il Sassone_). We owe the discovery of this important document
to Mr. Newman Flower. The next date known to us is that of April 11--on the
manuscript of Handel's _Dixit Dominus_, composed in Rome.

Most biographers have, however, assumed that Handel's first halt in Italy
would have been made at Florence, in view of the fact that Gian Gastone de'
Medici is known to have been at Florence from June 1705 to November 1706.
The eldest son of the Grand Duke, Prince Ferdinand, was an enthusiastic
patron of music, who employed the best musicians of the day to perform
operas in his magnificent country palace at Pratolino, some twelve miles
north of Florence. It has been suggested that Handel's first Italian opera,
_Rodrigo_, was composed for Ferdinand and performed early in 1707, but, in
view of Mr. Flower's discovery, this seems unlikely. Mr. Flower suggests,
indeed, that Ferdinand did not take much interest in Handel, otherwise he
would not have allowed him to go to Rome so soon. This is not impossible,
for we know that Ferdinand found the operas of Alessandro Scarlatti too
serious for his taste, and he may well have thought even less of Handel's
music, which (as we can see from the score of _Rodrigo_) was still very
German in style.

Rome could offer Handel no opportunities either for composing operas or
even for hearing them. Pope Clement X had permitted the opening of a public
opera-house (the Teatro Tordinona) in 1671, but it was closed five years
later by Innocent XI, who made every effort he could to suppress opera both
in public and in private. Innocent XII, who became Pope in 1691, seems to
have been, at first, less intolerant, for the theatre was rebuilt, and a
few performances were given; but in 1697 he ordered its destruction on
grounds of public morality. Except for a few performances of opera in
private in 1701 and 1702 no operas were produced in Rome until 1709.

Deprived of opera, the Romans devoted themselves to oratorio--which in
musical style was much the same thing--and to chamber music. The most
generous patron of music in Rome was the young Cardinal Ottoboni, who had
been raised to the purple in his early twenties, in 1690. He had indeed
composed an opera himself, which was performed in 1692, but he was more
competent as a poet than as a musician; in 1690 Alessandro Scarlatti had
set a libretto of his, _La Statira_.

Handel was no doubt recommended to him by Ferdinand de' Medici, and at the
Cardinal's weekly musical parties he soon came into contact with Domenico
Scarlatti, as well as with Corelli and Pasquini. Alessandro Scarlatti had
left Naples, probably for political reasons, in 1702, and at the end of
1703 Ottoboni had secured him a subordinate post at the church of Santa
Maria Maggiore, at the same time appointing him his private director of
music. Domenico was a young man of Handel's own age--"a young eagle" as
his father called him--brilliantly gifted, and (to judge from Thomas
Roseingrave's impression of him) possessed of a singular personal
fascination. "Handel," says Mainwaring, "used often to speak of this person
with great satisfaction; and indeed there was reason for it; for besides
his great talents as an artist, he had the sweetest temper, and the
genteelest behaviour." We may indeed regard his friendship with Handel
as safely authenticated. It is just possible that Handel may have met
Alessandro Scarlatti at Pratolino in the previous autumn, as his opera _Il
Gran Tamerlano_ was produced there in September; he may well have met him
between January and April of 1707. From April to September Alessandro
Scarlatti was in Urbino.

Handel's movements now become very difficult to follow. It seems probable
that his opera _Rodrigo_ was performed at Florence in the autumn of 1707;
Mainwaring says that it was composed for Ferdinand de' Medici, but there is
no record of any performance at Pratolino. As Handel is said to have been
presented to Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover at Venice, he must have been
there in October or November, as the Prince is known to have spent only
those two months in that city. Whether Handel remained at Venice over
Christmas, or whether he returned to Rome, is uncertain. Domenico Scarlatti
is said to have identified him at Venice at a masquerade by his playing of
the harpsichord. It would be most natural to suppose then that Handel
and the two Scarlattis were in Venice together for the production of
Alessandro's two operas, _Mitridate Eupatore_ and _Il Trionfo della
Liberta_, both of which were brought out at Venice in 1707, but, as it is
not known whether this took place at the beginning or at the end of the
year, there is not sufficient evidence to support such a conjecture.

During March and April 1708, Handel was the guest of Prince Ruspoli in
Rome; this has been definitely ascertained by Mr. Flower. Prince Ruspoli
was another great Roman patron of music, and Scarlatti frequently composed
works for him; his _Annunciation Oratorio_ was performed under his auspices
on March 25. On Easter Sunday, April 8, Handel made a triumphal appearance
with _La Resurrezione_, which was given on a sumptuous scale, at Ruspoli's
expense, in the Palazzo Bonelli, which he was occupying at the time.
Corelli led the orchestra.

After _La Resurrezione_, Handel seems to have returned to the patronage
of Cardinal Ottoboni, in whose palace he produced a _serenata_ (i.e. an
allegorical cantata) called _Il Trionfa del Tempo e del Disinganno_, which
he remodelled fifty years afterwards as _The Triumph of Time and Truth_.
The libretto was by Cardinal Pamphilij. It was the overture to this work
which caused so much difficulty to Corelli. Handel, irritated at his lack
of understanding, snatched the violin from his hand and played the passage
himself, to show how it should be executed; Corelli, gentlest of souls,
took no offence, although thirty-two years his senior and the greatest
violinist living, but merely observed, "My dear Saxon, this music is in the
French style, of which I have no knowledge."

It has been assumed by many biographers that Handel attended the meetings
of the Arcadian Academy, and since Prince Ruspoli was a great, benefactor
to the Academy, this is extremely probable, although there is no evidence
for it. Handel was not a member of the Academy, and various reasons for
this have been suggested, such as that he was a foreigner and also too
young to be admitted. It is more probable that his admission to that
exclusive society was never even contemplated; musicians were generally
engaged professionally for the concerts of the Italian academies, but very
seldom admitted to the honour of membership. Corelli, Pasquini and
Alessandro Scarlatti were all admitted together in 1705; they were the
three senior and most distinguished composers of the time, and as no other
musicians were then members, it may be assumed that these elections
constituted an exceptional honour.

Mainwaring relates that Cardinal Pamphili; on one occasion wrote a poem in
honour of Handel and desired him to set it to music himself; in this poem
"he was compared to Orpheus, and exalted above the rank of mortals." Later
biographers, being unable to trace any music of Handel to this poem,
assumed that Handel was too modest to sing his own praises; but he was not,
for the original manuscript of the cantata was found by the present writer
in the University Library at Muenster in Westphalia. As Mainwaring informs
us, Handel is compared by the poet (whose name is not given) to Orpheus and
indeed exalted above him. "Orpheus," says the Cardinal, "could move rocks
and trees, but he could not make them sing; therefore thou art greater than
Orpheus, for thou compellest my aged Muse to song." The style of both words
and music suggests that the whole cantata was thrown off, as Mainwaring
suggests, on the spur of the moment, and this improvisation may well
have taken place at one of the Arcadians' garden parties, for there is a
well-known account of a similar improvisation by the poet Zappi and the
composer Alessandro Scarlatti.

Handel was by this time fully accepted as one of the leading musicians in
Italy, for in June he composed a pastoral, _Aci, Galatea e Polifemo_, for
the marriage of the Duke of Alvito at Naples on July 19. It was in July
1708 that the Austrian Viceroy of Naples, Count Daun, was succeeded by
Cardinal Grimani, who, towards the end of the year, persuaded Alessandro
Scarlatti to return to the service of the royal chapel. As a good friend to
Scarlatti, the Cardinal was sure to interest himself in Handel, and it was
probably through him that Handel was commissioned to write an opera for
Venice, as the Grimani were a great Venetian family and owned the principal
opera-house there. How long Handel stayed at Naples we do not know; all
that Mainwaring tells us is that he was taken up by a Spanish princess,
but, as Naples had belonged to Spain for a hundred and fifty years, Spanish
princesses can have been no rarities there, and it is impossible to
identify this lady.

From July 1708 until December 1709 we lose sight of Handel entirely. On
December 26, the first night of the carnival season, his opera _Agrippina_
was produced at Venice. The libretto was by Cardinal Grimani, who had
already written other dramas for music, all produced, like Handel's, at the
Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo in Venice. Venice was the first city which
had undertaken opera on a commercial basis, open to the public on payment,
whereas in other places it depended for many years on the munificence of
princes and nobles. At Venice there existed not one theatre, but several,
devoted to opera, each called after the name of the parish in which it was
situated, and, of these, the theatre of St. John Chrysostom, built by the
Grimani family and still standing (though much remodelled) under the name
of Teatro Malibran, was the largest and most important. The Inquisition
took a more tolerant view of opera than the Pope; a Venetian preacher
admonished actors and singers to remember that they "were abominated of
God, but tolerated by the Government by desire of those who took delight in
their iniquities."

_Agrippina_ aroused an extraordinary enthusiasm. "The theatre, at almost
every pause, resounded with shouts and acclamations of _viva il taro
Sassone!_ and other expressions of approbation too extravagant to be
mentioned" (Mainwaring). The title part was sung by Margherita Durastanti,
and another singer who appeared in the opera was Boschi, the famous bass;
both of them were to sing for Handel in London later on. It is fairly
certain that Boschi must have sung the part of Polyphemus in Handel's
Italian _Aci e Galatea_ at Naples, for it bears a striking resemblance to
other songs written for Boschi, whose voice was of exceptional range. The
opera ran for twenty-seven nights.

After this unprecedented triumph it seems surprising that Handel did not
remain in Italy, where he had so many friends who could ensure his success.
It is probable that by the time _Agrippina_ was performed, if not indeed
long before, he had been promised the post of Kapellmeister to the court of
Hanover. The actual appointment is dated June 16, 1710. But no sooner was
Handel appointed than he at once obtained leave of absence, and went on,
first to Duesseldorf, and then to London. It was probably the Elector's
intention that he should spend some time in foreign travel before taking up
regular duty.

The three years which Handel spent in Italy at the most impressionable
period of his life fixed the characteristics of his style as a composer,
and we may well suppose that they exercised a decisive influence on his
personality and character. His youth had been spent in the respectable
middle-class environment of his home at Halle; then came the three years at
Hamburg, fantastic and exciting, yet, despite all the artistic stimulus of
Keiser's opera-house, inevitably sordid and provincial. Italy introduced
him to an entirely different atmosphere--to a life of dignity and serenity
in which a classical culture, both literary and artistic, was the matured
fruit of wealth, leisure, and good breeding. That exquisite life found its
highest musical expression in Alessandro Scarlatti, who at that period was
incontestably the greatest of living musicians. On his style Handel formed
his own, and it is interesting to note that of all Scarlatti's operas the
one which most strikingly foreshadows the genius of Handel is _Mitridate_,
which Handel may possibly have seen at Venice in the winter of 1707-08.
The musical library of Handel's English friend Charles Jennens contained a
large collection of Scarlatti's manuscripts, and there can be little doubt
that it was Handel who brought them with him from Italy.

In Venice, Handel had made the acquaintance of Prince Ernest of Hanover,
younger brother of the Elector Georg Ludwig who was eventually to become
King of England as George I. With Prince Ernest was Baron Kielmansegge, who
for many years afterwards remained a firm supporter of Handel, and another
Venetian acquaintance was the Duke of Manchester, English Ambassador to the
Republic of Venice. Through Prince Ernest, and Kielmansegge, Handel was
recommended to the court of Hanover; the Duke of Manchester gave him a
pressing invitation to England. Music in Hanover was under the direction of
an Italian, Agostino Steffani, who was not only a musician but priest and
diplomatist as well. Born at Castelfranco in 1654, he was taken as a boy
to Munich, where he studied music, and, in 1680 entered the priesthood; he
produced several operas there, and about 1689 became Kapellmeister to the
court of Hanover. Here he was employed on important diplomatic business;
Pope Innocent XI made him titular Bishop of Spiga in the West Indies,
and in 1698 he was Ambassador at Brussels. In 1709 he became the Pope's
representative for North Germany, and it was doubtless owing to his heavy
ecclesiastical duties that he resigned his musical post in favour of
Handel, although Hanover remained his chief place of residence until his
death in 1728. He was in Rome in 1708 and 1709, and it has been suggested
that he made Handel's acquaintance there, but this hardly seems consistent
with Handel's own statement, recorded by Hawkins in his _History of Music_:
"When I first arrived at Hanover I was a young man under twenty; I was
acquainted with the merits of Steffani and he had heard of me. I understood
somewhat of music, and could play pretty well on the organ; he received me
with great kindness, and took an early opportunity to introduce me to the
Princess Sophia and the Elector's son, giving them to understand that I
was what he was pleased to call a virtuoso in music; he obliged me with
instructions for my conduct and behaviour during my residence at Hanover;
and being called from the city to attend to matters of a public concern,
he left me in possession of that favour and patronage which himself had
enjoyed for a series of years." These statements of Handel seem, in fact,
to point to his having visited Hanover before he went to Italy, possibly
before he went to Hamburg, or, more probably, during the course of his
Hamburg period, in which case one might conclude that the Electress Sophia
had defrayed the cost of Handel's Italian journey. Even if Handel made
a mistake as to his age, he clearly implies that his first meeting with
Steffani took place in Hanover.

At Duesseldorf, Handel was sure of a warm welcome, for the Elector Johann
Wilhelm was a close friend of Steffani, and his wife was a sister of
Ferdinand and Gian Gastone de' Medici; he was a man of extravagant tastes,
and his opera-house was maintained on the most magnificent scale. But
Handel did not stay there long; England was a greater attraction, and he
arrived in London for the first time in the autumn of 1710.

Nothing is known of Handel's early days in London, but it may be safely
assumed that he was provided with letters of introduction to persons
of influence. We meet him first in the company of Heidegger, a Swiss
adventurer who achieved notoriety through his incredible ugliness, and from
1709 onwards was concerned in the management of the opera at the Queen's
Theatre in the Haymarket. Through Heidegger, Handel was introduced to Mary
Granville, then a little girl of ten, whom he delighted by his performance
on her own spinet. Her uncle, Sir John Stanley, asked her if she thought
she should ever play as well as Mr. Handel. "If I did not think I should,"
she cried, "I would burn my instrument!" Mary Granville, who, seven years
later, married a Mr. Pendarves, and in 1743 became the wife of Dr. Delany,
was for many years one of Handel's most faithful friends and supporters.

In the reign of Queen Anne the musical life of London was developing in a
new fashion as compared with what it was in the last twenty years of the
previous century. The type of English opera which Purcell and Dryden
had created came to an end with Purcell's death in 1695. Italian music,
especially when sung by Italian singers, was gradually becoming more and
more popular with London concert-audiences, and in 1705 Thomas Clayton
produced at Drury Lane an opera called _Arsinoe, Queen of Cyprus_. Clayton
had visited Italy, and had brought back with him a collection of Italian
songs; he got Peter Motteux to translate for him an old Italian opera
libretto, and adapted these songs to it. How much of _Arsinoe_ was
Clayton's own work is not known; Burney speaks of the opera with nothing
but contempt. Yet it seems to have had some fair success, and was even
revived the following year; but Clayton's _Rosamond_, to a libretto by
Addison, did not survive three performances. It was followed by a series of
Italian operas composed by Buononcini, Scarlatti, and others; at first the
operas were in English, and sung by English singers, but gradually Italian
was introduced, as at Hamburg, and in 1710 an opera called _Almahide_, the
music of which Burney ascribes conjecturally to Buononcini, was given in
Italian with an entirely Italian company. The victory of the Italians was
due mainly to the marvellous singing and acting of Nicola Grimaldi, known
as Nicolini, who first appeared in London in Scarlatti's _Pyrrhus and
Demetrius_. Nicolini was not the first _castrato_ who had been heard in
England; the famous Siface had been brought over by Queen Mary of Modena in
1687. But Nicolini was the first who appeared on the English stage, and
it was he who paved the way for Senesino, Farinelli, and the rest, and
established that annual season of Italian opera which is not yet extinct.

At the time when Handel arrived in London the opera company had migrated
from Drury Lane to Vanbrugh's new theatre in the Haymarket, where it was
under the management of Aaron Hill, an enterprising young man of Handel's
own age who was ready to pursue any sort of career that chance might offer
him, whether in literature, music, or business adventure. We may safely
hazard a guess that it was Boschi who persuaded Hill to invite Handel to
compose an opera for the Queen's Theatre, as Boschi had already sung, in
November 1710, in _Hydaspes_, an opera by Francesco Mancini, in which
Nicolini delighted his audience in a fight with a lion. Hill sketched a
plot based on Tasso's _Jerusalem Delivered_, and an Italian libretto was
hastily provided by Giacomo Rossi, Handel composing the music at the same
time, and often overtaking the poet. The music, in fact, was completed in
a fortnight, and the opera of _Rinaldo_ was first produced on the stage on
February 24, 1711. To judge from Burney's account of the preceding weeks
of the season, coupled with this astonishingly rapid collaboration, it is
probable that Hill was in a difficult situation, from which only a new and
strikingly successful opera could save him. _Rinaldo_ achieved the desired
success; it did more, it established Handel's reputation in England as a
dramatic composer, and set London a new standard in Italian opera. The
previous Italian operas had been works of little distinction, and some of
them had even been _pasticcio_ operas, as they were called, put together
from songs by various composers. Even Scarlatti's _Pyrrhus and Demetrius_
paled beside the new opera of Handel, for it had been written as far back
as 1694, and was in a style which Scarlatti himself had long abandoned.

_Rinaldo_ had fifteen performances in the course of the season. It provoked
bitter attacks from Addison in the _Spectator_ and from Steele in the
_Tatler_, but everybody knew that Addison's vanity was wounded by the
grotesque failure of _Rosamond_, and that Steele had interests in the
playhouse. It was useless at that particular moment to champion the cause
of English opera, for England happened to possess not a single composer who
was equal to the task of writing one.

The opera season came to an end in June, and Handel left London for
Germany. He did not go straight back to Hanover, but stayed at Duesseldorf
again, where the Elector was evidently desirous of keeping him as long as
possible, for the Elector himself wrote more than once to Hanover to make
excuses for Handel's prolonged absence from his official duties. Handel may
well have felt that Hanover was a dull place as compared with London. There
was no opera, and his chief function was to compose Italian chamber duets
for the Princess Caroline of Ansbach; afterwards Queen of England. But
he may well have taken pleasure in her service, for she was an excellent
musician and no mean singer. In November 1711 Handel paid a visit to Halle,
in order to stand godfather to his niece, Johanna Friderica Michaelsen, the
daughter of his surviving sister, who eventually inherited the bulk of his
fortune. Some biographers have stated that Handel had already revisited his
birthplace in 1710 before going to London. Mainwaring is their authority
for this, but Mainwaring habitually confused dates and more probably
referred to the visit of 1711, for which we have the certain evidence of
Friderica Michaelsen's baptismal register. It is clear that the alleged
visit of 1710 was suggested merely by a desire to make the most of Handel's
affection for his mother, which Mainwaring had already emphasised.
Mainwaring, however, went beyond the truth in saying that she had become
blind; she did eventually lose her sight, but not until some twenty years

Handel appears to have remained at Hanover until the autumn of 1712, when
he obtained permission to go to London again "on condition that he engaged
to return within a reasonable time" (Mainwaring). What period was to be
considered reasonable we do not know. Handel had certainly been planning
this London visit for some time, as he was corresponding with friends in
England, and was also taking some trouble to improve his knowledge of the
English language. It is not surprising that he hankered after London, for
London offered him a society which bore more resemblance to the world which
he had known at Rome. The tradition of Italian culture had for generations
been more firmly implanted in England than anywhere in Germany, except
perhaps in Vienna, and, since those three years in Italy, Handel's musical
outlook had become completely Italian, as his music shows. The few attempts
which he made at German Church music present a curious contrast of style;
one could hardly believe them to be the work of that Handel whom we have
adopted as our own. German music at that date was provincial; Italian music
was the music of the great world, because it was the music of the theatre.
It was to the theatre that Handel looked forward, and London had what even
Rome had not--an opera, and an Italian opera. The success of _Rinaldo_
had shown him that London was the place where he might launch out into a
triumphal career as a composer for the stage.


Second visit to London--Italian opera--George I and the _Water
Music_--visit to Germany--Canons and the Duke of Chandos--establishment of
the Royal Academy of Music.

For the greater part of the nineteenth century the Handelian type of opera
was the laughingstock of musical critics; they wondered how any audiences
could have endured to sit through it, and why the fashionable society of
London should have neglected native music for what Dr. Johnson defined as
"an exotic and irrational entertainment." The modern reader's impression
of an Italian opera of Handel's days is a story about some ancient or
mediaeval hero whose very name is often to most people unknown; if he
happens to be someone as famous as Julius Caesar, the familiar episodes
of his life are sacrificed to some imaginary and complicated intrigue
presented in the form of long and elaborate songs, thinly accompanied, and
separated by stretches of dreary recitative. But in those days persons of
culture, in England as well as in Italy, were perhaps more interested in
ancient history and in the history of the later Roman Empire than they are
now; it is significant that Gibbon's _Decline and Fall_ made its appearance
just when the fashion for operas on subjects which might have been taken
from its pages was coming to an end.

The conventional treatment of those subjects, which makes all the operas
seem exactly alike, was the result of a certain literary reform which had
tended to standardise opera libretti under the influence of Racine, and
it was really a movement towards dignity and dramatic unity after
the monstrous confusion of the earlier Venetian operas. As to the
conventionality of the music, and its forms of air and recitative, it can
only be said that all serious Italian music was written in these forms; it
was simply the normal musical style of the period, and must have been as
natural to its own audiences as the style of Puccini or Richard Strauss at
the present day. Handelian opera has often been described as a concert
in costume, and Dr. Burney, writing as late as 1789, both admits this
description and defends it.

"An opera, at the worst, is still better than a concert merely for the ear,
or a pantomime entertainment for the eye. Supposing the articulation to be
wholly unintelligible, we have an excellent union of melody and harmony,
vocal as well as instrumental, for the ear. And, according to Sir Richard
Steele's account of Nicolini's action, 'it was so significant, that a deaf
man might go along with him in the sense of the part he acted.'

"No one will dispute but that understanding Italian would render our
entertainment at an opera more rational and more complete; but without that
advantage, let it be remembered by the lovers of Music, that an opera is
the _completest concert_ to which they can go; with this advantage over
those in still life, that to the most perfect singing, and effects of a
powerful and well-disciplined band, are frequently added excellent acting,
splendid scenes and decorations, with such dancing as a playhouse, from its
inferior prices, is seldom able to furnish."

Orchestral concerts in those days did not exist; concerts of any kind were
rare, and the best were to be heard in that historic room over Thomas
Britton's small coal shop, in Clerkenwell, where Handel himself sometimes
played on a chamber-organ for the genuine musical enthusiasts of London
society. It was no wonder that Italian opera became fashionable. Italian
singers have always been unrivalled in popular favour, and in Handel's days
they were not only something new to England, but were the exponents of a
vocal art which admittedly has never been surpassed. The theatre was new
and sumptuous; society was wealthy and at the same time exclusive; at the
opera the great world met together as in a sort of club. People went to
talk and to be seen as well as to see and hear; they do so in certain
opera-houses still. And the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket possessed the
greatest opera-composer living, a greater even than Scarlatti himself.

It was a period when there was still a considerable tradition of
musicianship among the amateurs of English society. Old Countess Granville,
known to her younger relatives as "the Dragon," who had lived all through
the age of Locke and Purcell, wrote, at the age of eighty, to her cousin
Mrs. Pendarves--Handel's child friend Mary Granville--in 1734: "There is,
I think, no accomplishment so great for a lady as music, for it tunes
the mind." There were plenty of people in the great houses capable
of appreciating the merits of Handel, or at any rate of constituting
themselves his enemies.

Handel must have arrived in England at least as early as the beginning of
October 1712, for the manuscript of _Il Pastor Fido_, the first new opera
which he produced, is dated, at the end, "Londres, ce 24 Octobre." The
opera-house was now under the management of Owen MacSwiney, who seems to
have been both incompetent and unreliable. _Il Pastor Fido_ did not attract
the public, and was withdrawn after six performances, but Handel soon had
another opera ready to take its place. _Teseo_ was finished on December
19, and brought out on January 10, 1713; it was a romantic-heroic opera,
closely modelled on _Rinaldo_, with an abundance of scenic effects. After
the second performance MacSwiney disappeared, leaving the singers unpaid as
well as the scene-painters and costume-makers. The company carried on the
season undeterred, and the management was taken over by Heidegger. Handel's
opera was performed twelve times--on the last night for the composer's
benefit; between the acts he gave a performance himself on the harpsichord.

For the moment, however, the operatic situation was not encouraging, and
Handel turned his thoughts in other directions. He had stayed first at
the London house of a Mr. Andrews of Barn Elms in Surrey, but he soon
transferred himself to the house of Lord Burlington in Piccadilly. Lord
Burlington was only seventeen years of age, but he and his mother made
Burlington House an artistic and literary centre comparable with the
palaces of Cardinal Ottoboni and Prince Ruspoli at Rome. As the libretto of
_Teseo_ is dedicated to him, he must have taken Handel under his patronage
soon after his arrival in England, but the precise date at which Handel
went to live with him is uncertain. According to Hawkins, he stayed at
Burlington House for three years, meeting Pope, Gay, and Dr. Arbuthnot, as
well as many other "men of the first eminence for genius." But Gay does not
seem to have met Lord Burlington until 1715, and Pope mentions him first
in 1718. It is thought that Handel's little opera, _Silla_, may have been
written for a private performance at Burlington House in 1714, and the
dedication of _Amadigi_, Handel's next opera (1715), indicates that the
music was composed within his patron's own walls.

One of Handel's favourite haunts in London was St. Paul's Cathedral, where
Brind the organist often persuaded him to play the organ after evening
service, to the great delight of the congregation. He appears to have
made Brind's acquaintance first through young Maurice Greene, then aged
seventeen, who had been a chorister of St. Paul's, and, after his voice
broke in 1710, was articled to Brind as a pupil. After service was over,
Handel, Greene, and some of the members of the choir would repair to
the Queen's Arms Tavern close by for an evening of music and musical

This friendly association with St. Paul's was no doubt of great value to
Handel in his next musical undertakings--the _Birthday Ode_ for Queen
Anne, and the _Te Deum_ which celebrated the Peace of Utrecht in 1713.
The Queen's patronage may very likely have been obtained for him by Lady
Burlington, as she was one of the Ladies of the Bedchamber. These two
works are important landmarks in Handel's career, as they were his first
compositions to English words, and his first compositions for English
ceremonial occasions. They marked him out as the natural successor to
Purcell, and it is evident that in each case he took Purcell's similar
composition as his model. Up till now he had been a foreigner engaged to
provide Italian opera for the amusement of fashionable society; with the
_Birthday Ode_ he became a court musician to the Queen of England, and with
the _Te Deum_ his music entered St. Paul's.

The practical result of the _Ode_ was a pension of L200 a year conferred
on him by Queen Anne. It is clear that he now regarded England as his
permanent home, regardless of the fact that he was officially the servant
of the Elector of Hanover and had undertaken to return thither "within a
reasonable time." But on August 1, 1714, the Queen died, and the Elector
was proclaimed King of England. When George I came over to his new country,
Handel did not dare to show himself at court, and all efforts on the part
of his friends to effect a reconciliation with the King were in vain. The
King went to see his new opera, _Amadigi_, which came out late in the
season of 1715, but refused to pardon him, until Handel's old Venetian
acquaintance, Baron Kielmansegge, now Master of the Horse, devised an
ingenious expedient for surprising the King into clemency.

One of the favourite amusements of London society was to make up a
water-party on the Thames, with a band of musicians in attendance. Mrs.
Pendarves describes a party of this kind in July 1722; they rowed up to
Richmond, where they had supper, and "were entertained all the time by very
good music [for wind instruments] in another barge." Baron Kielmansegge
arranged that the King should go for an excursion of this kind, and that,
without his knowledge, Handel should conduct appropriate music of his own
in a barge that followed the King's. As the Baron was often in charge of
the music for such occasions, this can have been a matter of no great
difficulty; in any case it achieved the desired result. The King was
enchanted with the music, and restored Handel to favour. As Mainwaring
tells this story just before speaking of _Amadigi_, it has generally been
assumed that this episode took place in the summer of 1715, but more
recently it has been ascribed to 1717, on the strength of a long account of
a royal water-party, with music by Handel, given in the _Daily Courant_,
a newspaper of the period. This account was copied by the Envoy of
Brandenburg at the court of St. James's and despatched by him to Berlin;
the discovery of this document has led certain writers to cast doubt on
Mainwaring's story. Streatfeild is probably right in suggesting that
Mainwaring's story refers to an earlier water-party, and that Handel
contributed music frequently for such occasions. He also points out that
the celebrated _Water Music_ was not published until 1740, and that it may
quite well have been collected from various aquatic programmes.

Hawkins relates the story of the _Water Music_, evidently copying from
Mainwaring; but Hawkins had known Handel personally, and had been supplied
by him with certain reminiscences, one of which was unknown to Mainwaring.
According to this anecdote, recorded by Hawkins, the reconciliation with
George I was due to the violinist Geminiani, who had composed a set of
sonatas dedicated to Baron Kielmansegge; Geminiani was a notoriously
difficult player to accompany, and insisted on Handel, and no other, taking
the harpsichord when he went to play the sonatas to the King.

Mr. Flower, in his life of Handel, refuses all credit to Mainwaring's
well-known tale, and takes the view that the King never had any quarrel
with Handel at all. In any case it seems certain that he confirmed the
pension granted to him by Queen Anne, and added a further L200 a year of
his own. A few years later, Handel received yet another L200 a year--from
Caroline of Ansbach, now Princess of Wales, for teaching her daughters the
harpsichord, so that he enjoyed a settled income of L600 a year for the
rest of his life.

_Amadigi_, produced May 25, 1715, did not have many performances, as the
season ended on July 9, but it attracted considerable attention, partly
because that old favourite, Nicolini, sang in it again, and also on account
of its elaborate staging. "There is more enchantment and machinery in this
opera," says Dr. Burney, "than I have ever found to be announced in any
other musical drama performed in England."

During the following season, which did not begin until February 1716, both
_Rinaldo_ and _Amadigi_ were revived, but Handel produced no new opera. The
King seems to have wished to see Nicolini in his older parts; _Pyrrhus and
Demetrius_ was revived, as well as other operas of the days before Handel's
first arrival in England. In July, at the end of the season, George I
returned to Hanover, where he remained until the end of the year. Handel
accompanied him, but seems to have had freedom to travel, for he visited
Hamburg, where he avoided meeting his old friend Mattheson, though he
corresponded with him from a safe distance. He also went to Halle, where
his mother was still living; Zachow, however, was dead, and had left his
widow in straitened circumstances, with an idle and intemperate son. Handel
helped the widow, and continued to send her money in later years, but he
eventually came to the conclusion that it was useless to do anything for
the son. From Halle he went on to Ansbach, no doubt on some commission
from the Princess of Wales. At Ansbach he found an old friend from the
University of Halle, Johann Christoph Schmidt, who was established in a
woollen business. Although Schmidt was married and had a family, he was
persuaded by Handel to leave these behind at Ansbach and to travel with
him to London, where he spent the rest of his life as Handel's faithful
secretary and copyist. His son came over later on, and, after Handel had
provided for his education, assisted his father in looking after Handel
during his old age.

During these six months in Germany, Handel reverted for a moment to German
music; he set what is known as the _Brockes Passion_, a sacred cantata
in verse by the Hamburg poet Brockes, which had already been set once
by Keiser. Later on it was set to music again by two of Handel's former
friends, first by Telemann, and then by Mattheson. Little is known about
the composition of this work; Handel apparently had a copy made after his
return to England and sent this to Mattheson, and it was performed at
Hamburg in 1717. Handel does not seem to have had it performed in England;
he used up the music afterwards for other works. Chrysander attributed to
1716 a set of nine German songs with violin _obbligato_ to semi-sacred
words by Brockes; but there is some difficulty about accepting this date,
for, although eight of the poems had already been printed by Brockes, there
is one which is found only in the second edition of the book, printed in

The King came back to London in January 1717, and it is supposed that
Handel came with him. The opera was on the verge of collapse. _Rinaldo_ and
_Amadigi_ were once more revived for Nicolini, but Handel contributed no
new work, and, after the season came to an end in July, there was no more
Italian opera in London until 1720. It was during this period that Handel
became musical director to the Duke of Chandos, for whom he composed works
of a character new both to England and to himself.

James Brydges, first Duke of Chandos, had built himself an Italian palace
at Canons, near Edgware, in which he must have outdone even the magnificent
Lord Burlington in sumptuousness and ostentation. Like a German princeling,
he kept his choir and his band of musicians, though there seems to be no
evidence that he was himself genuinely musical. The chapel of the house, a
florid Italian baroque building with frescoes in the appropriate style by
Italian painters, was opened in 1720, and the anthem for the occasion
was no doubt one of Handel's. It is not known what music of Handel's was
performed at the Duke's private concerts, but for the services of the
chapel he composed the famous _Chandos Te Deum_ and the twelve _Chandos
Anthems_. Here again Purcell was his model, but the style was Handel's
own, a style indeed so appropriate to the formal stateliness of the Duke's
establishment that these works have never become part of the ordinary
cathedral repertory. It was to Purcell, and to some extent to Scarlatti
too, that Handel owed the general plan of the anthems with their orchestral
accompaniments, but even Purcell's anthems with orchestra had by that time
been found too elaborate for general use.

To the Chandos period belongs also a work which is still one of Handel's
most popular compositions, the English _Acis and Galatea_, to words by John
Gay. It was not a revision of the _serenata_ which he wrote at Naples, but
an entirely new work. More important as a landmark in Handel's development
is the masque of _Esther_, originally called _Haman and Mordecai_. About
the early history of these works little is known; both were intended to be
acted on the stage, and they were very probably performed in this way at
Canons. The words of _Esther_ were adapted from Racine's play of the same
name, and it has been suggested that Pope was the author.

Handel's residence at Canons gave rise to two legends about him which
are still so often repeated that their absurdity must be mentioned here,
although they have been known for many years to be baseless. One is
perpetuated by an inscription on the organ in the church at Whitchurch,
to the effect that Handel composed the oratorio of _Esther_ on this
instrument. Handel was never organist at Whitchurch; the church existed in
his day, but it was an entirely separate building from the private chapel
of the Duke of Chandos which was pulled down with the house. The organ of
that chapel is now at Gosport. It need hardly be said that in any case it
was not Handel's practice to compose his works on an organ. The other, and
even more popular, legend is that of "The Harmonious Blacksmith." It was
during the Canons period that Handel published his _Suites de Pieces pour
le Clavecin_ (1720) which had probably been composed for the daughters
of the Princess of Wales, and one of these suites contains the air and
variations known by that familiar title. But the air was never called by
this name before 1820; about that time a young music-seller at Bath, who
had previously been a blacksmith's apprentice, earned the nickname of "the
harmonious blacksmith" because he was always singing that particular tune.
Somehow the name got transferred from the singer to the song, and in 1835
the story of Handel's having been inspired to compose the tune after
hearing a blacksmith at Edgware produce musical notes from his anvil was
first put into print in a letter to _The Times_. Not long afterwards an
imaginary blacksmith of Edgware was invented, and his alleged anvil sold by

Whether the air is Handel's own composition at all is a matter of
uncertainty; there would be nothing in the least unusual about any composer
taking another man's air as a theme for variations, and it has been
suggested, with some plausibility, that the tune is that of an old French

On August 8, 1718, Handel's sister Dorothea Sophia died of consumption
at Halle. She was not more than thirty years of age; the other sister,
Johanna, had died in 1709. The sermon preached at Dorothea's funeral on
August 11, 1718, has been preserved, and tells us that one of her favourite
texts from the Bible, which she was often in the habit of quoting, was,
"I know that my Redeemer liveth." Chrysander suggested, and we may well
believe, that the setting of these words in _Messiah_, given to a female
voice, owed its inspiration to the memory of Dorothea Sophia. Handel was
evidently much attached to her. To attend her funeral was impossible, and
it was some months before Handel could visit Halle again; but on February
20, 1719, he wrote a letter to his brother-in-law, thanking him for all the
kindness which he had shown to his sister, and promising to come to Halle
as soon as his engagements permitted.

Handel's inability to leave London before February 1719 was due to the fact
that a new scheme for the promotion of opera in London was on foot. The
first idea was probably suggested in the circle of the Duke of Chandos
towards the end of 1718. It was the moment of the South Sea Bubble, and
speculation had become the universal fashion. To revive the Italian opera a
company was formed among members of the nobility; a capital of L50,000 was
raised in shares of L100 each, and the King himself contributed L1,000.
The new venture was called the Royal Academy of Music, in imitation of
the _Academie Royale de Musique_, under which name the Paris opera was
officially known. The French designation was obviously suggested by the
Italian "academies," or literary and musical societies of the period; the
expression _accademia di musica_ is still occasionally used in Italy to
signify a concert. The directors engaged Nicolo Haym and Paolo Rolli as
poets to provide libretti; for the music they naturally secured Handel, but
also invited Buononcini over from Rome, and Attilio Ariosti from Berlin.
Handel was sent at once to Dresden to select singers; on February 21 he is
stated to have left London for that purpose, but it is possible that he may
actually have started later, for in his letter to his brother-in-law, dated
February 20, he says, "I beg you will not judge of my desire to see you by
the delay of my departure, for to my great regret I find myself detained
here by important business on which I may say my fortune depends, and it
has dragged on longer than I expected.... I hope I shall be at the end of
it in a month from now."

Handel's exact itinerary is difficult to establish. We know that he went to
Duesseldorf, where he engaged the singer Baldassari, but whether this was on
the outward journey or later in the year is uncertain. From the letter to
Michaelsen we should imagine that he went to Halle as soon as possible;
the only authentic document which gives us any date is a letter from Count
Flemming, a court functionary at Dresden, to Melusine von Schulenburg,
daughter of George I's mistress the Duchess of Kendal, who in 1733 married
Lord Chesterfield. Melusine was a pupil of Handel in London. The letter
is dated from Dresden, October 6, 1719; the Count seems to have been much
offended by Handel's behaviour, and suggests that he was "a little mad"
(_un peu fol_). Count Flemming was evidently vain of his own musicianship,
and this made him feel all the more hurt at Handel's obstinate refusal to
accept his invitations. The Electoral Prince of Saxony was married about
this time to an Austrian Archduchess, and the Elector had invited several
of the most famous Italian singers, headed by the composer Lotti, to
Dresden to grace the occasion, hoping to make contracts with them for the
winter season. Handel's object in Dresden was to tempt these celebrities to
London by the offer of English guineas, so that he was naturally obliged to
be extremely discreet in his relations with the officials of the court.

He certainly played the harpsichord at court, for in the following February
(1720) a sum of 100 ducats was paid to him; this however cannot indicate
that he was actually in Dresden at that date, and may easily have been
a delayed payment for earlier services. Handel's negotiations with the
singers were only moderately successful, for he was unable to secure anyone
except Signora Durastanti for the opening of the London opera, even though
that was delayed until April 1720. The others remained at Dresden, but it
is probable that Handel's offers had not been without their attractions,
for the Italian singers at Dresden gave so much trouble to the management
that the Elector suddenly dismissed the whole crew in February 1720; none
of them, however, appeared in London before the autumn season.

Handel's visit to Halle this year is of peculiar interest because of
the attempt made by J. S. Bach to become acquainted with him. Forkel's
biography of Bach (1802) is the only authority for this story. Bach in 1719
was in the service of the Prince of Anhalt-Coethen; hearing that Handel was
in the neighbourhood, he went over to Halle, a distance of about twenty
miles, but found that Handel had already departed for London. The exact
date of Handel's return is not known, but as there was a meeting of the
shareholders of the opera on November 6, 1719, he may have been in England
by that time. He was not himself one of the actual directors of the
company; the only professional member of the board was Heidegger. Burney
suggests that the affairs of the company were none too prosperous even
before the season began; and it is strange that so long a delay took place
between the first initiation of the scheme in the winter of 1718 and the
first rise of the curtain on April 2, 1720. Handel, at any rate, must have
felt his own position to be secure, for it was about this time that he took
the house at what was then 57 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, where
he resided for the rest of his life. His name appears first in 1725 among
the ratepayers of the parish of St. George's, Hanover Square, but not long
ago a lead cistern was found in the house, bearing his initials and
the date 1721. On what terms he took the house is not known; it is not
mentioned in his will.


Buononcini--Cuzzoni, Faustina, and Senesino--death of George I--_The
Beggar's Opera_--collapse of the Academy.

The opening performance of the Royal Academy of Music was undistinguished;
it is hard to understand why the noble directors should have begun their
season with _Numitor_, an opera by Porta, a Venetian composer, who is
described in the book of words as "Servant to His Grace the Duke of
Wharton." The Duke of Wharton was not one of the directors. The company,
moreover, was more English than Italian; it included Baldassari,
Durastanti, and a second woman called Galerati, together with Anastasia
Robinson, who afterwards became Countess of Peterborough, Mrs. Turner
Robinson, wife of the organist of Westminster Abbey, Mrs. Dennis, and Mr.
Gordon. _Numitor_ ran for five performances; on April 27 it was succeeded
by Handel's new opera _Radamisto_, in which the same singers took part,
except that Mrs. Dennis did not appear, and Mr. La Garde sang the part of
Farasmane. It is interesting to note that two of the male parts were taken
by women--Radamisto (Durastanti) and Tigrane (Galerati). This looks as if
the management had found it impossible to secure a sufficient number of
Italian _castrati_, who probably demanded exorbitant fees.

_Radamisto_ fared little better than _Numitor_; an enormous crowd came to
the first night, and many were turned away, but the opera was not performed
more than ten times in the season. It was probably above the heads of the
audience, for it is one of Handel's finest works for the stage and a great
advance on any of his previous operas. The only other opera performed was
_Narciso_, by Domenico Scarlatti, which was even less successful than the
others. Chrysander seems to suggest that Scarlatti came to London with the
idea of being a rival to Handel, but it is much more likely that Handel
himself persuaded the Academy to invite the friend of his youth.

The season ended on June 25. _Radamisto_ was printed, and was published by
Handel himself at his own house.

A really serious rival to Handel appeared in the autumn. Lord Burlington
had made the acquaintance in Rome of Giovanni Buononcini, and had heard his
opera _Astarto_. Perhaps he had had enough of Handel after three years of
his close company in Burlington House; in any case he probably thought
himself a better judge of music than Handel. He secured Buononcini for
the Academy, and the season opened on November 19 with _Astarto_. The
dedication to the Earl of Burlington is signed by Paolo Rolli, and no other
author's name is mentioned; but the libretto was really by Apostolo Zeno
(1708). _Astarto_ had ten performances before Christmas, and twenty
afterwards; _Radamisto_ was revived again, but Buononcini established
himself firmly in the favour of a large party. Although Burney speaks very
disparagingly of the music, it is not in the least surprising that the
opera attracted the public. In the first place, it had the advantage of
a magnificent cast of singers--Senesino, Boschi, Berenstadt, Berselli,
Durastanti, Salvai, and Galerati, and this sudden blaze of vocal splendour
would in itself have made the success of any opera, especially of one which
opened the season. Besides, Buononcini's music was pleasing and, after a
far longer stage experience than Handel's, he naturally wrote what singers
enjoyed singing. It must further be added that Buononcini himself was a
striking personality; he had produced operas at Berlin and Vienna, as well
as in various Italian cities, and was a man of the world, accustomed to the
society of courts. Besides, Buononcini was a stranger and a novelty; Handel
was becoming an established institution--indeed, he was well on the way to
becoming an English composer.

The same singers, with the addition of Anastasia Robinson, appeared in the
season of 1721-22. A curious experiment was tried in _Muzio Scevola_,
of which the first act was composed by Filippo Mattei, the second by
Buononcini and the third by Handel, each act having an overture and
concluding chorus. Some biographers have supposed that this was intended to
be a trial of strength, and that the contest resulted in the acknowledged
triumph of Handel; but Burney is probably right in saying that the
collaboration was merely a device to save time in getting the opera ready,
and Burney further points out that Buononcini's position remained as strong
as ever. It was in fact due to Buononcinci's next two operas, and not to
Handel's, that the Academy was able to declare a dividend of seven per

Handel's _Floridante_ (December 9, 1721) had a moderate success only, and
against Handel's one opera (except for a few performances of _Radamisto_ at
the very beginning of the season) Buononcini had three works to his credit.
The following season brought Handel better fortune, and a decline in the
popularity of Buononcini. In November and December, _Muzio Sceaola_ and
_Floridante_ were revived; on January 12, Handel produced a new opera,
_Ottone_, with a new singer, Francesca Cuzzoni, who eclipsed all the other
women singers completely, until after some years she herself was driven
into eclipse by her historic rival Faustina Bordoni.

_Ottone_ contains one number at least which is familiar to everyone who
knows the name of Handel--the gavotte at the end of the overture. This
spirited piece of music won popularity at the outset, and even to-day it
is probably the best known melody of Handel, after the "Harmonious
Blacksmith." But the real success of _Ottone_ was made by Cuzzoni.

How Cuzzoni came to be engaged at the opera is not clear. Handel cannot
possibly have ever heard her sing; it has been suggested that she was
engaged by Heidegger. She was about twenty-two, and had made her first
appearance at Venice in 1719, after which she sang in various Italian
theatres. She had a voice of extraordinary range, beauty, and agility; she
was equally accomplished both in florid music and in airs of a sustained
and pathetic character, and she was never known to sing out of tune. In
appearance she was anything but attractive: she was short, squat, and
excessively plain-featured. She was uneducated and ill-mannered, impulsive
and quarrelsome. Her arrival in London was delayed for some reason, so
the management sent Sandoni, the second harpsichord-player, to meet
her, probably at Dover. On the way to London they were married; Sandoni
doubtless had an eye to the money which she was to earn.

Her first air in _Ottone_, "Falsa imagine," fixed her reputation as an
expressive and pathetic singer (Burney); she had at first refused to sing
it, on which Handel remarked to her, "Madame, je sais que vous etes une
veritable diablesse, mais je vous ferai savoir, moi, que je suis Beelzebub,
le chef des diables," seized her round and waist, and threatened to throw
her out of the window. Handel had similar trouble with Gordon, the English
singer who came in for a small part in _Flavio_, which was given on May 14.
Gordon found fault with Handel's method of accompanying, and threatened to
jump on the harpsichord.

"Oh," replied Handel, "let me know when you will do that, and I will
advertise it; for I am sure more people will come to see you jump than to
hear you sing."

Two more operas by Buononcini were given, but his relations with the
Academy were not very cordial. He had been taken up by the Marlborough
family, and was commissioned to compose the funeral anthem for the burial
of the great Duke in June 1722. On May 16, 1723, Mrs. Pendarves informed
her sister that the young Duchess had settled L500 a year for life on
Buononcini, "provided he will _not_ compose any more for the ungrateful
Academy, who do not deserve he should entertain them, since they don't know
how to value his works as they ought." The contract, however, seems not to
have been carried out by the composer. Mrs. Pendarves evidently took the
news from the day's issue of a weekly journal, adding only the name of the
Duchess, which the paper had suppressed. What the paper tells us is that
the Academy had not engaged Buononcini for the coming season.

Senesino and Cuzzoni had made life impossible for the other singers.
Durastanti retired to the Continent; Anastasia Robinson left the stage, and
married her old admirer Lord Peterborough. Senesino and Cuzzoni, however,
were indispensable to the success of the opera, and probably the ridiculous
affectations of the one and the abominable manners of the other were not
without their attraction to a public which could enjoy all the pleasure of
gossiping about them without having to put up with them at close quarters.

The season of 1723 began in November with Buononcini's _Farnace_ and
Handel's _Ottone_; in January 1724 a new opera, _Vespasiano_, by Attilio
Ariosti, was given, and ran for nine successive nights. Ariosti was never
a very troublesome rival to Handel; he was a man of amiable character, and
apparently quite content to remain aloof from the party politics of the
opera-house. On February 14, Handel produced his _Giulio Cesare_, one of
his finest dramatic works; it has been revived with considerable success
in recent years, partly owing to the fact that modern audiences are more
familiar with the episode of Caesar and Cleopatra than with the subjects of
Handel's other operas. _Giulio Cesare_ had the advantage of a strong cast;
Senesino sang the title part, with Berenstadt and Boschi to support him,
and the women included Cuzzoni, as well as Durastanti and Mrs. Robinson,
who had not yet quitted the opera company.

Another masterpiece of Handel's, _Tamerlano_, inaugurated the autumn season
of 1724 in October; in December appeared Ariosti's _Artaserse_, in January
_Giulio Cesare_ held the stage till the production of another Handel opera,
_Rodelinda_, which came out on February 13, and ran for thirteen nights.
Two more operas, by Ariosti and Leonardo Vinci of Naples, completed the
season, but it was evidently Handel who scored the greatest triumphs,
unless the honours should more properly go to Cuzzoni, as Rodelinda, and
her brown silk gown trimmed with silver. All the old ladies, says Burney,
were scandalised with its vulgarity and indecorum, "but the young adopted
it as a fashion so universally, that it seemed a national uniform for youth
and beauty."

Cuzzoni created a further sensation in the summer by giving birth to a
daughter. Mrs. Pendarves made much fun of the event. "It is a mighty
mortification it was not a son. Sons and heirs ought to be out of fashion
when such scrubs shall pretend to be dissatisfied at having a daughter;
'tis pity, indeed, that the noble name and family of the Sandonis should be
extinct! The minute she was brought to bed she sang' La speranza,' a song
in _Otho_."

Revivals of _Rodelinda_ and _Ottone_ took place in the following season,
and, in March 1726, Handel produced _Scipio_, in which the famous march was
heard for the first time on the rise of the curtain.

But Cuzzoni's throne was soon to be sharply contested. Ever since 1723 the
directors of the opera had been trying to secure Faustina Bordoni, and at
last, with a promise of L2,500 for the season (Cuzzoni received L2,000),
they succeeded. Faustina was born of a patrician family at Venice in 1700;
she had been brought up under the protection of Alessandro Marcello,
brother of the well-known composer, and had made her debut at Venice at the
age of sixteen. She sang mostly at Venice for several years, and in 1718
she appeared there in Pollaroli's _Ariodante_, along with Cuzzoni herself.
She sang at Munich in 1723, and in the summer of 1725 she went to Vienna,
where she stayed six months, enjoying an extraordinary success. Nearly
forty years afterwards the Empress Maria Theresa recalled with pride how
she herself, at the age of seven, had sung in an opera with Faustina. At
the end of March 1726 she left Vienna for London, where she made her first
appearance, on May 5, in Handel's new opera _Alessandro_, which had been
designed especially to show off both Faustina and Cuzzoni in parts of
exactly equal importance and difficulty. The immediate result was to divide
London society into two parties: young Lady Burlington and her friends
supported Faustina; Cuzzoni's admirers were led by Lady Pembroke. Lady
Walpole succeeded in getting both to sing at her house; neither would sing
in the presence of the other, but the hostess tactfully managed to draw
first one and then the other out of the music-room while her rival
enchanted the guests. Mrs. Pendarves also contrived to be on good terms
with both. She heard Cuzzoni in November privately, or perhaps at a
rehearsal, and writes, "my senses were ravished with harmony." The opera
was expected to begin about the middle of December, "but I think Faustina
and Madame Sandoni [i.e. Cuzzoni] are not perfectly agreed about their
parts." The opening, however, was delayed by the absence of Senesino, who
had gone to Italy and did not return until fairly late in December.

It was probably owing to this fact that opera in English was offered at the
theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where Marcantonio Buononcini's _Camilla_,
first given in London in 1706, was revived by a mainly English cast of
singers. Mrs. Pendarves went to see it, and her criticisms are significant
for the taste of the time. "I can't say I was much pleased with it, I liked
it for old acquaintance sake, but there is not many of the songs better
than ballads."

Faustina--"the most agreeable creature in the world in company"--dined with
Mrs. Pendarves for a small musical party on January 26. On the previous day
there was the first rehearsal of Handel's _Admeto_. It was the moment, says
Burney, of Handel's greatest prosperity and English patronage. _Admeto_
exhibited conspicuously what Dr. Burney called Handel's "science "; it was
evidently considered to be complicated in style, though at the same time
both pathetic and passionate. "Music," says Burney, "was no longer regarded
as a mere soother of affliction, or incitement to hilarity; it could now
paint the passions in all their various attitudes; and those tones which
said nothing intelligible to the heart began to be thought as; insipid as
those of 'sounding brass or tinkling cymbals.'" These words of Burney make
one realise that Handel's London operas must have affected their audiences
almost in the way in which the operas of Wagner startled the audiences of
the nineteenth century. Handel himself, like Wagner, was steadily
developing his own dramatic powers, and it is important to bear in mind
that it was only those marvellous singers of Handel's day, such as
Senesino, Cuzzoni, Faustina, and Boschi, who could inspire him to the
creation of such music as they only were competent to interpret.

_Admeto_ was received with respect, and although the partisans of the
"rival queens" were noisy in their applause, no actual disturbance took
place until Admeto was followed by Buononcini's _Astyanax_ on May 6. On the
first night of the new opera each side did its best to drown the opposite
party's favourite with a chorus of catcalls. The behaviour of the audience
became more and more disgraceful as the opera was repeated, until on the
last night (June 6), when the Princess of Wales was present, Cuzzoni and
Faustina delighted the sporting instincts of the nobility and gentry of
England by indulging in a free fight on the stage.

Five days later George I died suddenly at Osnabruck. George II was crowned
on October 11, to the music of Handel's Coronation Anthems. The opera
season reopened a month later. Apparently the quarrel between Cuzzoni and
Faustina had been patched up; probably neither of them wanted to lose their
English contracts. They appeared together in Handel's _Riccardo Primo_, and
again in _Siroe_ (February 5, 1728), as well as in _Tolomeo_ (April 30),
but the battle seems to have been won by Cuzzoni, who obtained the more
important parts. We hear of no more disturbances; the fact was that the
audiences were too thin to be noisy.

Mrs. Pendarves, always a devoted supporter of Handel, was pessimistic from
the beginning of the season. "I doubt operas will not survive longer than
this winter," she wrote on November 25; "they are now at their last gasp;
the subscription is expired and nobody will renew it. The directors are
always squabbling, and they have so many divisions among themselves that I
wonder they have not broke up before; Senesino goes away next winter, and I
believe Faustina, so you see harmony is almost out of fashion."_Admeto_ was
revived on June 1, 1728; this was Faustina's last appearance, and the last
night of the Royal Academy of Music. The opera was announced for June 11,
but Faustina declared herself indisposed. The opera was shut up and the
company disbanded. Faustina went with Senesino to Paris, and thence to
Venice, where Cuzzoni also made her appearance, and continued in the local
dialect the campaign of slander against Faustina's alleged immoralities.

There were many reasons for the collapse of the opera. It had been carried
on with reckless extravagance, and the noble directors were in all
probability not very expert men of business. The scandalous behaviour of
all concerned in _Astyanax_ may well have caused a falling-off in the
subscriptions. Mrs. Pendarves, who was a lady of unimpeachable conduct,
continued to go to the opera, but she was a serious lover of music and
a personal friend of Handel. The failure of the Academy is generally
attributed to the success of _The Beggar's Opera_, which had been brought
out at Lincoln's Inn Fields on January 29, 1728, and at once took London
by storm. A letter of Mrs. Pendarves, dated January 19, but evidently
continued later, tells us that she went to a rehearsal of _Siroe_: "I like
it extremely, but the taste of the town is so depraved, that nothing will
be approved of but the burlesque. The _Beggar's Opera_ entirely triumphs
over the Italian one." Even Mrs. Pendarves could not help enjoying it, once
she had seen it.

It is probable that Handel himself had contributed to the downfall of the
Academy. Out of the 487 performances given between 1720 and 1728, Handel's
works obtained 245, Buononcini's 108, and Ariosti's 55. The great singers
had drawn the public to listen to Handel's operas, but it is clear from
many contemporary allusions that Handel's music was too severe to be an
attraction in itself, except to cultivated musicians like Mrs. Pendarves.
The same accusations were made against Handel that were made in later years
against Mozart and Wagner--that his operas were noisy and overloaded with
learned accompaniments. The Italian opera was killed, not so much by the
fact that _The Beggar's Opera_ made its conventions ridiculous (for its
conventions could at that time have been ridiculous only to quite unmusical
people), as by the incontestable attraction of the new work itself. It was
witty and outspoken, with abundance of topical satire; its music consisted
of the tunes that everybody knew, and it presented the public with the
irresistible fascinations of Lavinia Fenton, who was soon to become the
Duchess of Bolton.

Handel may well have resented the success of _The Beggar's Opera_, but
the collapse of the Academy was in reality no great disaster for his own
interests. In the first place, he had done very well out of it from a
financial point of view; the noble directors might have lost their
money, but he had been only their paid servant, in which capacity he had
accumulated enough to invest no less than L10,000 of his own in the next
operatic venture. He obviously realised the strength of the position which
he had built up for himself both as a composer and as a man of business.
The most important result of the Academy's career had been to provide
Handel with the opportunity of consolidating his own style as a composer
of musical drama. Like all the court composers of his age he had provided
whatever his patrons required--chamber music, water music, minuets for
court balls, Church music for royal ceremonial; but the music on which his
own heart was set was that of the theatre.


Handel naturalized--partnership with Heidegger--_Esther_--the Opera of
the Nobility--visit to Oxford--opera season at Covent Garden--Charles
Jennens--collapse of both opera-houses.

Handel had by this time definitely decided to make England his home; on
February 13, 1726, he had been naturalised as an English subject. He had
every reason to regard England as the best place in which to live. He
enjoyed the protection of the German court; George II and Queen Caroline
gave him indeed a good deal more encouragement than George I. The
appointments of composer to the Chapel Royal and composer to the court were
purely honorary, but they strengthened his position. As to the opera-house,
he must by now have felt that he was its unquestioned autocrat, and he
could not help being aware that he was without a rival in Europe as far as
the stage was concerned, for old Scarlatti had gone to his grave, and the
younger generation had produced no composer of such outstanding eminence.
And in England music was generously rewarded from a material point of view;
high fees were paid, not only to singers, but to teachers as well, and
England was also one of the few countries where music-printing was a
flourishing business. A good proportion of Handel's savings must have come
from the sale of his published compositions; among Handel's contemporaries
no other composer in Europe had so many of his works printed during his
lifetime. English society seemed always ready to subscribe for a new
musical work, and neither in Paris nor in Amsterdam was music so admirably
engraved as in London.

Encouraged by the Princess Royal, Handel went into partnership with
Heidegger, who had also made his own profits out of the opera, as well as
out of his notorious masquerades; they leased the King's Theatre for a
period of five years. The first thing to do was to secure new singers, and
for this purpose Handel went to Italy, probably in the autumn of 1728.
Heidegger had already tried to bring back Senesino and the two "costly
canary-birds," as Colley Cibber called them, but they had had enough of
London, and probably of Handel too. Little is known of the details of this
Italian journey; it has been said that Handel travelled with Steffani,
but this is impossible, as Steffani died at Frankfurt early in the year.
Mainwaring tells us that, at Rome, Cardinal Colonna invited him to his
palace, but that Handel, hearing that the Pretender was staying there,
prudently declined the invitation. In engaging singers he seems to have
been perhaps more prudent than was desirable, for his new company did not
contain any very distinguished names. In place of Senesino he obtained the
_castrato_ Bernacchi; his new first woman was Signora Strada del Po', who
was a fine singer, but so unattractive in appearance that London nicknamed
her "The Pig." It is interesting to note that he also engaged a tenor,
Annibale Fabri, although in those; days tenors were considered only fit for
old men's parts of minor importance, and at Naples were generally given the
parts of comic old women. Fabri's wife and another woman were announced
as good actresses of male parts. "Fabri has a tenor voice," wrote Mrs.
Pendarves, "sweet, clear and firm, but not strong enough, I doubt, for the
stage. He sings like a gentleman, without making faces, and his manner is
particularly agreeable." Perhaps Handel's friendship with Mrs. Pendarves
had given him a sure insight into the taste of English gentlewomen.

In the summer of 1729 Handel paid a visit to his mother at Halle; she was
then blind and half paralysed. Bach sent his son Friedemann over from
Leipzig to beg Handel to come and see him, as he was himself too ill to
make the journey, but Handel not unnaturally declined. Towards the end of
June he passed through Hanover, and also went to Hamburg, where he engaged
a German bass Riemschneider.

The opera season began on December 2, with Handel's _Lothario_, but it
had only a moderate success. After a few revivals of _Giulio Cesare_, he
brought out a second new opera, _Partenope_, on February 24. Despite its
many beauties, it was even less successful than _Lothario_. Handel's
audience did not go to the theatre to listen to his music; they went to
hear the singers, and Bernacchi, who was no longer a young man, was a poor
substitute for Senesino. Strada was the only member of the company who
interested the audience. For the next season something better had to be
found, and through Francis Colman, the English Envoy at Florence, Senesino
was persuaded to accept 1,400 guineas instead of the 2,000 that he had
received before. He opened the season of 1730 on November 3, with his
former role of Scipio. For the moment Handel remained in the background;
the next opera was a _pasticcio_, that is, an opera made up of favourite
songs from various operas stuck into any convenient libretto. On February 2
there came out the new opera of Handel, _Poro_, which turned the tide once
more in the composer's favour. Later on, _Rinaldo_ and _Rodelinda_ were
revived, but the season came to an early end on May 29. For the following
winter some changes were made in the cast. Senesino and Strada were
of course indispensable, and the most important new acquisition was
Montagnana, the bass, for whom Handel was to write some of his most
celebrated songs.

After revivals of _Tamerlano_ and _Admeto_, Handel brought out _Ezio_ on
January 15, 1732; it had only five performances. _Sosarme_ (February 19)
had ten; it is remembered now by the exquisite song, "Rendi 'l sereno al
ciglio," which was sung by Strada. The remainder of the season presented
nothing of any special interest until on the last night Handel offered his
subscribers a new type of entertainment in the shape of _Acis and Galatea_.

On Handel's birthday, February 23, Bernard Gates, the master of the
children of the Chapel Royal, arranged a private performance of _Esther_,
which had been neglected since its first performance at Canons some twelve
years before. Among the boys who sang and acted in the "masque" were Beard,
who afterwards became Handel's favourite tenor, and Randall, eventually
Professor of Music in Cambridge, who took the part of Esther. The
performance was repeated twice before a paying public at the Crown and
Anchor Tavern, where concerts were often held, and on April 20 a rival
organisation advertised a further performance of Esther at the concert-room
in Villiers Street. On this occasion it was described as "an oratorio or
sacred drama," and was evidently sung without action. Princess Anne wished
to see it on the stage of the opera-house but the Bishop of London forbade
a dramatic performance. As the bishop's ban was ultimately the cause of
Handel's turning his attention to oratorio in preference to opera, it has
sometimes been suggested that Handel might have created a new type of
national English opera on biblical subjects if only his lordship had not
interfered. In justice to the bishop it has to be pointed out that his
objection seems to have been raised, not against the dramatic presentation
of Bible stories (for he did not discountenance Gates' performances by the
choristers at the Crown and Anchor), but against their presentation in
a regular theatre by professional opera singers. Such prejudice may be
difficult to understand at the present day, but even well into the middle
of the nineteenth century persons of severe morality regarded the theatre
and all who belonged thereto with stern disapproval, and the notorious
scandals associated with Cuzzoni and Faustina, to say nothing of Heidegger,
were not likely to have washed out the memory of Jeremy Collier's

"The sacred story of _Esther_, an oratorio in English," was accordingly
announced for May 2, with the information that "there will be no acting
on the stage, but the house will be fitted up in a decent manner for the
audience; the Musick [i.e. the orchestra] to be disposed after the manner
of the coronation service." Within a fortnight, Thomas Arne, father of the
composer, advertised a performance of _Acis and Galatea_ at the Little
Theatre in the Haymarket "with all the choruses, scenes, machines, and
other decorations, being the first time it was performed in a theatrical
way." The laws of the time gave no protection to musical and dramatic
copyright. Handel could only reply by giving a performance of the work
himself; his one advantage was that as composer he could remodel the score
and make several new additions to it. But he did not have the work acted;
it was sung in costume with a background of appropriate scenery. Even in
this form it obtained four performances; Senesino and Strada took part in
it, singing in English.

Such a setting may appear strange to modern readers, but, even if it was
a new idea for England at the time, it was a fairly well established
tradition on the Continent, and Handel may very likely have seen a similar
entertainment in Italy. The subscribers to the opera would see little in
it that was incongruous. They were accustomed to see singers in all operas
wearing dresses that differed very little from their own, and scenery which
recalled their own Italianate gardens and palaces; Handelian opera, in any
case, left little scope for what most people now call acting. At the same
time we may be pretty sure that concert singers, especially Italians,
allowed themselves far more liberty of spontaneous expressive movement than
Victorian oratorio singers holding their music-books in front of them by
traditional convention.

Four more performances of _Acis and Galatea_ were given at the opera-house
in December 1732; Handel evidently saw that it would be a sure attraction.
_Alessandro_ and _Tolomeo_ were revived, and on January 23 he produced a
new opera, _Orlando_, which had ten performances, with six more later in
the season. _Orlando_ is one of Handel's most original operas; he seems
always to have derived a peculiar inspiration from the poems of Tasso and
Ariosto, as in the case of _Rinaldo_. _Orlando_ is a thoroughly romantic
opera--Chrysander even compares it with those of Weber--full of episodes of
madness and magic; it is so far removed from the ordinary conventions of
its time that we can well imagine it to have startled both its audiences
and its singers.

The affairs of the opera-house were going badly, and it is probable that
there were considerable dissension within its walls. It is certain that
relations between Handel and Senesino were becoming more and more strained;
_Orlando_ was the last opera of Handel's in which he sang. It seems fairly
certain also that Heidegger was none too loyal as a partner. Heidegger was
in a strong position, for he was the actual owner of the stock of scenery
and other appurtenances taken over from the original Academy. He seems to
have lent the theatre to Buononcini for some performances of _Griselda_,
and, when the lease came to an end, it was Heidegger who left Handel in the
lurch and allowed a rival organisation to secure it.

There was, too, a further reason for the general hostility against Handel.
Encouraged by the success of _Acis and Galatea_, he had composed a new
oratorio, _Deborah_, which was performed at the opera-house on March 17,
by the King's command. For this work prices were doubled; tickets were a
guinea each, and admission to the gallery half a guinea, instead of five
shillings. At the second performance the normal prices were charged. The
raising of prices for an extraordinary performance might well seem nothing
unreasonable; but the event came exactly at the moment of the popular
outcry against Walpole's Excise Bill, and the satirists of the day seized
the opportunity of comparing Handel with Walpole.

Handel was now nearly fifty years of age. In the days of _Rinaldo_ he had
been a young man of twenty-five, making friends with those of his own age
or younger, a new attraction with all the fascination of genius and youth.
In the course of a generation he had become an established institution. He
had made a success; he had amassed a fortune; he had secured to himself the
unshaken confidence of the court; but he had inevitably made enemies. The
native musicians were very naturally jealous of the foreigner, and the
numerous foreign musicians in London jealous of one who made more money out
of the extravagant English than they did themselves. The Italian singers
found him tyrannical, and society very probably resented his rough manners.
Society had engaged him to provide music for their entertainment, and he
took up the unheard-of attitude of expecting society to pay its guineas
for whatever music he chose to write. England, one might almost say, had
spoiled him, for it was only in England that "The Great Bear," as he was
sometimes called, could go his own way--a musician behaving with the
complete disregard of public opinion which was considered the exclusive
privilege of the English nobility. In any other country he would have
been forced either to pander to the taste of a court or to relapse into
obscurity. It was not until after the French Revolution that a Beethoven
could display the independence of Handel in the aristocratic environment of

The English nobility, having set Handel this example, claimed their own
rights, and organised a rival opera-house at Lincoln's Inn Fields. They had
no difficulty in seducing, first Senesino, then Montagnana, and finally
Heidegger. Only Strada remained faithful to Handel. Buononcini having lost
their favour, they engaged as composer the Neapolitan Nicolo Porpora,
famous then as a great trainer of singers, and still more famous in later
years as the teacher of Haydn. If Handel had the King and Queen on his
side, the nobility could count on the support of Frederick Prince of Wales,
who was immensely popular throughout the country and was on the worst
possible terms with his royal parents. The Opera of the Nobility, as the
new syndicate was called, was making its plans in good time, directly after
the end of Handel's season.

In July 1733, Handel was invited to Oxford for a series of performances
of his works, and it was proposed to confer on him the honorary degree of
Doctor of Music. The Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Holmes, was a loyal Hanoverian,
and hoped by honouring Handel to do something to counteract the Jacobite
reputation of the University. _Esther_ and _Deborah_ were performed, as
well as the Utrecht _Te Deum_ and _Jubilate_, and the Coronation Anthems;
Handel further provided a new oratorio, _Athaliah_. The degree he refused
to accept, for what reason has never been explained. Various suggestions
have been offered. The Abbe Prevost, who was in England at the time, says
that he refused the degree out of modesty; later biographers have differed
in their views as to whether modesty was one of Handel's characteristics.
Others have supposed that he refused to pay the fee of L100 that was
demanded, but it is inconceivable that a fee should have been demanded
for an honorary degree, although it would naturally have been paid by
candidates who took the degree in the normal way. The concerts were
attended by large audiences, many music lovers coming over from Eton and
Cambridge, although there was considerable resentment at the price of
admission--five shillings, a small amount compared with Handel's London
charges. This "Handel Festival" at Oxford is significant, for it shows
that in the space of no more than a year oratorio had begun to make a wide
appeal, even outside London, although it was a form of composition that was
new to English audiences. _Esther_, considered as a masque to be acted,
might be said to continue the English traditions of the previous century,
but there was no precedent in England for anything like _Esther_ in concert
form. The only English works which offered anything remotely like oratorio
were the odes of Purcell and Blow for the musicians' festivals on St.
Cecilia's Day, apart from the greater services and anthems of Purcell,
which were composed, not for entertainment, but for liturgical use.

After the Oxford concerts, Handel and Schmidt went to Italy to look for
singers. They heard Farinelli, the most famous _castrato_ of the century,
but did not engage him; perhaps his demands were too high. The _castrato_
whom they did engage was Carestini, who, though less celebrated, was at any
rate a singularly artistic singer. Durastanti came back, and, in place of
Montagnana, Handel contented himself with Waltz, a German, who is often
described as having been Handel's cook. Burney, at any rate, recorded that
he was said to have filled this office, but Burney remembered him chiefly
as a popular comic singer. He had sung Polyphemus in Arne's pirated
performance of _Acis and Galatea_, and owing to the defection of
Montagnana, took his place in _Athaliah_ at Oxford. He had "a coarse figure
and a still coarser voice" (Burney).

Handel opened his season on October 30, 1733. He had already finished the
composition of a new opera, _Ariadne_, but it was not brought out until
January 26, 1734. The reason, no doubt, was that an opera on the same
subject by Porpora was produced by the Opera of the Nobility on December
29. Handel would no doubt have heard that it was in rehearsal, and
have postponed his own production until he could see how Porpora's was
succeeding. The two operas obtained the same number of performances, but
Handel's theatre was seldom full, and many opera-goers were dissatisfied at
his giving them oratorios, such as _Deborah_ and _Acis_, on opera nights;
these, however, seem to have been commanded by the King, and that in itself
would make them all the more unpopular.

In March the Princess Royal was married to the Prince of Orange, and Handel
was commissioned to write a wedding anthem. He also provided a secular
entertainment in the shape of _Parnaso in festa_, described as a
_serenata_. It was not unlike a masque; Apollo and the Muses appeared in
costume on Mount Parnassus, but apparently there was no acting. The music
was adapted from _Athaliah_, which, so far, had only been heard at Oxford.
Oratorio was also attempted by Handel's rival; Mrs. Pendarves heard a work
of his at Lincoln's Inn Fields in March. "It is a fine solemn piece of
music," she wrote, "but I confess I think the subject too solemn for a
theatre. To have words of piety made use of only to introduce good music,
is reversing what it ought to be, and most of the people that hear the
oratorio make no reflection on the meaning of the words, though God is
addressed in the most solemn manner." Needless to say, it was "not equal
to Mr. Handel's oratorio of Esther or Deborah." Mrs. Pendarves was at this
time a near neighbour of Handel's in Lower Brook Street; one of her letters
describes a small musical party (her musical parties were always small) a
month later. Apparently there were not more than ten guests, including Lord
Shaftesbury, who begged another guest to bring him, and was admitted as
being "a profess'd friend of Mr. Handel"; the only professional musicians
present were Handel and Strada. "I never was so well entertained at an
opera! Mr. Handel was in the best humour in the world, and played lessons
and accompanied Strada and all the ladies that sung from seven o' the clock
till eleven." In such company Handel could evidently be more agreeable than
on the stage at rehearsals, and it is interesting to note that the amateurs
had no timidity about singing before Strada, and that Handel was willing to
accompany all of them alike.

In July 1734, Handel's lease of the King's Theatre came to an end, and he
found the theatre let at once by some means to his rivals, the Opera of the
Nobility. He therefore entered into an arrangement with Rich for the use of
his new theatre in Covent Garden, but his autumn season actually opened at
Lincoln's Inn Fields on October 5. The probable reason for this was that
the Princess Anne was spending the summer in England and wished to hear
some of Handel's operas. She was a remarkably gifted musician, and Handel
considered her to be the best of his pupils; she not only sang and played
the harpsichord well, but was thoroughly grounded in the theoretical side
of music and quite capable of composing a fugue, according to a Dutch
musician who became acquainted with her after her marriage. She came to
England on July 2 for a long stay, and at once persuaded Handel to give
three additional performances of _Il Pastor Fido_, which he had revived
that season. _Pastor Fido_ and _Ariadne_ were given again for her in
October; probably Covent Garden was not quite ready for performances.
Princess Anne left England on October 21, and her last words at parting
were to beg Lord Hervey to do all he could to help Handel.

The chief attraction to the public at Covent Garden was probably not Handel
but Mlle Salle, a French dancer who had been engaged by Rich. The first
performance at the new theatre was a ballet, _Terpsichore_, in order that
she might inaugurate the season. _Terpsichore_, which includes songs and a
chorus, served as prologue to _Il Pastor Fido_. The next opera was _Oreste,
a pasticcio_ made up by Handel himself from his own works; on January 8,
1735, he produced his Ariodante, an opera over which he had spent the
unusually long time of ten weeks. The score was begun on August 12 and
finished on October 24. The story is taken from Ariosto, and, as with
Orlando, Handel found that it afforded opportunities for his peculiar vein
of romanticism. On April 16 he followed it up with Alcina, again on a
subject from Ariosto, and one of even more romantic character. Ariosto's
enchantress Alcina was the model for Tasso's better-known Armida, who
provided both Lulli and Gluck with one of their most dramatic heroines, and
Burney says, with some justice, that Handel's Alcina gave birth to all the
Armidas and Rinaldos of modern times. Both Ariodante and Alcina contained a
large amount of ballet music, and the dances in Alcina, intermingled
with choruses in the French manner, are among Handel's most attractive

Mrs. Pendarves, after the rehearsal of Alcina, described Handel as himself
"a necromancer in the midst of his own enchantments," but he could not
prevail against the enchantments of Farinelli, who had been engaged by the
rival opera company. There could be no competing against a combination that
included along with him Senesino, Cuzzoni, and Montagnana. The one powerful
counter-attraction that Handel could offer was oratorio on Wednesdays and
Fridays in Lent, when operas were not allowed to be given. Porpora's David,
which the rival management put on, had no chance against Esther, Deborah,
and Athaliah. Alcina carried the Opera on to the end of the season, the
well-known air "Verdi prati," which Carestini had at first refused to
sing, being encored at every performance. Handel's alleged angry retort to
Carestini in comical broken English has been often quoted from Burney; but
Schoelcher very sensibly observed that Handel was pretty certain to have
conversed with Carestini in Italian.

The newspapers informed the world in May that Handel was going to spend the
summer in Germany. His health had been seriously undermined, and it
may well have been possible that he had talked of taking a cure at
Aix-la-Chapelle; but on this occasion he went no farther than Tunbridge
Wells. It was probably in the earlier part of 1735 that he made the
acquaintance of Charles Jennens, a young man who was eventually to play a
great part in his life, for on July 28 he wrote to Jennens to say that he
was just starting for Tunbridge.

The letter is so short that it may be quoted here in full, for it gives us
a great deal of interesting information.

_July 28, 1735_.

I received your very agreeable letter with
the enclosed Oratorio. I am just going to Tunbridge;
yet what I could read of it in haste,
gave me a great deal of satisfaction. I shall
have more leisure time there to read it with all
the attention it deserves.

There is no certainty of any Scheme for
next Season, but it is probable that something
or other may be done, of which I shall take
the liberty to give you notice, being extremely
obliged to you for the generous concern you
show upon this account.

The Opera of Alcina is a writing out, and
shall be sent according to your direction. It is
always a great pleasure to me if I have an
opportunity to show the sincere respect with
which I have the honour to be,

&c., &c.,


Jennens was a conspicuous figure in the London society of his day. At the
time of this correspondence he was thirty-five, and unmarried; he
had inherited vast wealth in his youth and spent it freely. He was
ostentatious, even for an age when extravagance was fashionable; but
although he was conceited and on occasions foolish, he was certainly
possessed of considerable intellectual gifts, and the things which
interested him most in life were literature, music, and the fine arts. The

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