George Fredric Handel
born in Halle, Germany
Father was a wealthy barber/surgeon that
believed that Handel should never enter the
Born Georg Friedrich Händel, Handel
anglicized the spelling of his name after
becoming a British citizen in 1727.
Handel never married.
Learned opera style through actively
absorbing it as a violin player in Hamburg.
First opera was Almira (age 20).
Was a great success for his age.
Age 25 appointed as the conductor for the
Elector of Hanover.
He traveled to London to stage his opera,
which was very well received
The next time he went to London, he just
He was dismissed by the Elector of
The elector of Hanover, was crowned King
George I of England in 1714.
Handel’s Water Music 1717
An offering to King
George I after
irritating His Serene
Music for an outing
on the Thames river.
His former salary (in
Water Music (1717)
First performance lacking Basso Continuo
Instruments: Harpsichord or Clavichord
would not fit in the boat. Too Top Heavy.
Hornpipe, Lentement as well as the
standard dance forms.
1720 Founded the Royal Academy of
Purpose: presentation of Italian Opera
OPERA SERIA: Italian opera, sung in Italian,
serious themes, serious plots, high aristocratic
form of entertainment.
wrote about 40 operas
Italian Opera in England
At first was popular, but the royal academy
of music did not remain successful.
Squabbles between Handel and his opera
Mismanagement of funds at the opera
New Operatic Forms Compound
Success of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera.
Ballad or Dialogue Opera: opera with
spoken text, light, humorous, sung in the
Baroque vocal piece.
First oratorios were sacred operas.
Eventually stripped of staging and costumes
At the end of the Baroque it was simply a
Middle and late oratorio used no acting,
staging, costumes. -- Concert version.
Based upon a biblical story
recitatives tell story
ensembles of main
plots: O.T. stories
Chorus = VIMP
Narrator = VIMP
Soloists, orchestra, chorus.
Uses all of the “MUSICAL” elements of opera to
create a non-staged event.
Sudden change in fashion in London;
oratorios replace operas as favored
Oratorio – unstaged narrative work for
voices, chorus & orchestra, usually on
More generally, a move to new, Classical,
style in opera puts Handel on the operatic
shelf for 200 years
Middle Class Appeal
England had just lived through the
Commonwealth period when restrictions on
society and on the middle class were
perceived as unbearable.
Middle Class Appeal
Middle class identified with the Old
Testament stories found in Handel’s
oratorio’s. (Freeing of the Hebrews….
Concerts given in benefit to the poor,
The odd fate of Handel’s operas
Even Handel’s best and very popular
operas fell out of favor, and were rarely if
ever performed again until the 20th
Century. Compare that to the
case of Handel’s Messiah
which has been performed
every year since its premiere
Premiered in Dublin, Ireland.
Composed in 24 days.
Libretto: Biblical verses divided in three
Structure of Messiah
Christmas: prophecy and coming of Christ.
Easter: The passion of Christ
Redemption: detailing how to live through
Concert etiquette for Messiah
Why stand at the Hallelujah Chorus.
Tradition or Religious significance?
the Top 10 (possible) reasons
the king was awakened by the loud chords
of the beginning of the chorus
he was tired of sitting
he was hard of hearing and thought they
were playing “God Save the King”
he had gout and stood for relief
he arrived late and all stood when he
he had hemorrhoids and stood for relief
he had to go to the bathroom
he mistook the words “And he shall reign
forever and ever” to be a personal tribute
he thought the chorus was so splendid that
he assumed it marked the end of the show
he was actually moved and inspired to stand
1749 Produced Music for the Royal
Fireworks to celebrate the end of the War
of Austrian Succession
many diverse styles &
genres; sacred &
H’s music popular during
& after lifetime
H = OPERA!
Handel’s last years
he lost his eyesight during the last years of
so did Bach
they had the same physician who treated
them both for cataracts
buried in Westminster Abbey
Note the wrong date on
the grave marker.
Handel is the greatest composer
who ever lived. I would bare my
head and kneel at his grave.
- Ludwig Van Beethoven