George Frideric Handel 23 February 1685 – 14 April 1759

George Frideric Handel

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Handel is both so well known and so popular, even today, that it is difficult to be succinct about his contribution to opera – but it was enormous and highly influential. In this brief over-view we will ignore music for fireworks and river cruises, and say nothing about Messiah.

He was born in Germany in the same year as both Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti. When the Elector of Hanover became King of England in 1714, Handel moved permanently to London.

His first and highly successful opera in London was Rinaldo, based on La Gerusalemme Liberata by Torquato Tasso. From that point on he produced a stream of opera-seria which ran until the taste of the town moved away from the dramatic integrity of the style, preferring the easier delights of Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera and The Dragon of Watley.

At the same time as opera-seris began to decline, oratorios became increasingly important. They were particularly popular as large scale works for those times of the year when the opera houses were closed for religious observation – and which were far cheaper to stage. This gave Handel an opportunity to effectively create a whole new musico-dramatic form, of which the best example is probably Theodora, the work which Handel himself regarded as his favorite, even more than Messiah.

Below is a list of Handel’s operas in order of composition. Most of these have their own websites for more specific detail.

The Operas

Almira : 8 January 1705; Nero : 25 February 1705; Florindo : 1708; Daphne : 1708

For Florence

Rodrigo : 1707

For Venice

Agrippina : 1709;

For London

Rinaldo : 24 February 1711

Il Pastor Fido : 22 November 1712; Teseo : 10 January 1713; Silla : June 1713; Amadigi di Gaula : 25 May 1715; Radamisto : 27 April 1720; Muzio Scevola : 15 April 1721; Floridante : 9 December 1721; Ottone : 12 January 1723; Flavio : 14 May 1723; Giulio Cesare : 20 February 1724; Tamerlano : 31 October 1724; Rodelinda : 13 February 1725; Scipione : 12 March 1726; Alessandro : 5 May 1726; Admeto : 31 January 1727; Riccardo Primo : 11 November 1727; Siroe : 17 February 1728; Tolomeo : 30 April 1728; Lotario : 2 December 1729; Partenope : 24 February 1730; Poro : 2 February 1731; Ezio : 15 January 1732; Sosarme : 15 February 1732; Orlando : 27 January 1733; Arianna in Creta : 26 January 1734; Ariodante : 8 January 1735; Alcina : 16 April 1735; Atalanta : 12 May 1736; Arminio : 12 January 1737; Giustino : 16 February 1737; Berenice : 18 May 1737; Faramondo : 3 January 1738; Serse (Xerxes) : 15 April 1738; Imeneo : 22 November 1740; Deidamia : 10 January 1741

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