Handel's Messiah, a Touchstone of Taste

Handel's Messiah, a Touchstone of Taste

Handel's Messiah, a Touchstone of Taste

Handel's Messiah, a Touchstone of Taste

Excerpt

There Hendel strikes the strings, the melting strain
Transports the soul, and thrills through ev'ry vein.

-- JOHN GAY, Trivia (1716)

ON SATURDAY EVENING, 24 February 1711, London's elegant world flocked to the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket to hear George Frideric Handel's first Italian opera in England. Yesterday the celebrated composer had spent his twenty-sixth birthday rehearsing for his British debut, and tonight London listened with pleasant anticipation for the opening strains of Rinaldo. Late in the preceding autumn the young German had reached London after four triumphant years in Florence and Venice and Rome. Bewildered by the strange bustle of a foreign capital, he had searched out Aaron Hill, Director of the Haymarket Theatre, and this enterprising producer had engaged him at once to compose an opera based on an episode in Tasso Jerusalem Delivered . In his hasty enthusiasm the Director himself had drafted a rough sketch in English, and this outline had been speedily expanded into an Italian libretto by Giacomo Rossi. But the librettist had found himself unable to keep pace with Handel's energetic powers. In his grandiloquent preface Rossi confessed that "The Signor Hendel, the Orpheus of our Age, in setting to musick this lay from Parnassus, had scarcely given me time enough to write it, and I have beheld, to my great astonish . . .

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