This sudden recognition led to eager competition for Handel's services. Among those most keen to employ him was Prince Georg Ludwig, the Elector of Hanover and future King George I of Great Britain. In June 1710 Handel accepted the appointment of Kapellmeister to Georg's Hanover court, under terms that gave him considerable scope to pursue his own interests. On the basis of this freedom, in late 1710 Handel left Hanover for London, possibly in response to an earlier invitation from members of the English nobility. By 1711, informed London audiences had become familiar with the nature of Italian opera through the numerous pastiches and adaptations that had been staged. The former Royal Academy of Music Principal, Curtis Price, writes that the popularity of these pieces was the result of a deliberate strategy aimed at the suppression of English opera. Handel's music was relatively unknown in England, though his reputation from Agrippina was considerable elsewhere. A short "Italian Dialogue" he had written in honour of Queen Anne's birthday was well received when performed at St James's Palace on 6 February 1711.
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In autumn 1706 Handel went to Italy. He stayed for long periods in Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice, making frequent visits to the opera houses and concert halls. He obtained introductions to leading musicians, among them Arcangelo Corelli, Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, and Agostino Steffani, and met numerous singers and performers. From these acquaintances Handel learned the essential characteristics of Italian music, in particular (according to Dean and Knapp) "fluency in the treatment of Italian verse, accurate declamation and flexible harmonic rhythm in recitative, ... drawing the necessary distinction between vocal and instrumental material and, above all, the release of [his] wonderful melodic gift". Handel's first Italian opera, Rodrigo, showed an incomplete grasp of Italian style, with much of Keiser's Hamburg influence still evident; it was not a success when premiered in Florence, in late November or early December 1707. He followed this by a lengthy visit to Rome, where opera performances were then forbidden by papal decree, and honed his skills through the composition of cantatas and oratorios. In Rome, Handel met Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani, a diplomat and spare-time librettist; the result of this meeting was a collaboration which produced Handel's second Italian opera, Agrippina. After this work's triumphant premiere at the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo in Venice, on 26 December 1709, Handel became, says biographer P. H. Lang, "world famous and the idol of a spoiled and knowledgeable audience".
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