Composers Datebook®

Handel in London

Composers Datebook - Jan. 10, 2024


Today, we note two anniversaries concerning Handel and his music in London.

On today’s date in 1710, the German-born composer’s music was performed in London for the first time when excerpts from his opera Rodrigo were used as incidental music during a revival of Ben Jonson’s comic play The Alchemist, written 100 years earlier.

It’s a nice historical touch that in addition to writing satirical comedies such as The Alchemist, Jonson had supplied the poetic texts for elaborate masques staged at the court of King James I. Masques were a kind of precursor of the lavish Baroque operas such as Handel’s Rodrigo, which debuted in Italy just three years before its tunes were recycled for use on the British stage.

By 1713, the vogue for Italian operas had reached London, and Handel was on hand to write and stage them. On today’s date in 1713, his opera Teseo had its premiere at the Queen’s Theatre in London. And, just to show that off-stage events could prove every bit as dramatic as those on-stage, the theater manager, a certain Owen Swiney, ran off to Italy with the box office receipts after the second night’s performance!

Music Played in Today's Program

George Frederic Handel (1685-1757) Bourrée, from Rodrigo; Hallé Orchestra; John Barbirolli, cond. EMI 63956

George Frederic Handel (1685-1757) Overture to Teseo; English Concert; Trevor Pinnock, cond. Archiv 419 219

On This Day


  • 1910 - French composer and conductor Jean Martinon, in Lyons;

  • 1916 - American composer Milton Babbitt, in Philadelphia;


  • 1895 - French composer Benjamin Godard, age 45, in Cannes;

  • 1941 - British composer Frank Bridge, age 61, in Eastbourne;


  • 1676 - Lully: opera "Atys," in St. Germain;

  • 1713 - Handel: opera "Teseo" at the Queen's Theater in London; On the second night of the performance, the theater manager, a certain Owen Swiney, flees to Italy with the box office receipts (Gregorian date: Jan. 21);

  • 1867 - Verdi: opera "Don Carlos" (2nd Italian-language version in 4 acts), in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala;

  • 1886 - first performance with orchestra of Bruckner: "Te Deum" in Vienna;

  • 1897 - d'Indy "Istar" for orchestra, simultaneously by Willem Mengelberg in Amsterdam and Eugène Ysayë in Brussels;

  • 1928 - Gershwin (and Sigmund Romberg): musical "Rosalie" at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York City; This show included the classic Gershwin songs "How Long Has This Been Going On?" and "Say So!";

  • 1931 - Ives: “Three Places in New England,” in New York City, by the Chamber Orchestra of Boston, Nicholas Slonimsky conducting;

  • 1934 - Franz Schmidt: Symphony No. 4, by Vienna Symphony, Oswald Kabasta conducting;

  • 1960 - Stravinsky: "Movements," at Town Hall in New York, by pianist Margit Weber during a Stravinsky Festival, with the composer conducting;

  • 1978 - Dutilleux: "Timbres, espaces, mouvement" for orchestra, in Washington, D.C.;

  • 1987 - Joan Tower: "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman" No. 1 (later dedicated to Marin Alsop), by the Houston Symphony, Hans Vonk conducting;

  • 1998 - Kernis: String Quartet No. 2, at Merkin Concert Hall in New York, by the Lark Quartet; This work won that year's Pulitzer Prize for Music;


  • 1710 - Handel's music is performed in London for the first time, when orchestral works from his opera "Rodrigo" are performed as incidental music during a revival performance of Ben Jonson's play "The Alchymist" (Gregorian date: Jan. 21).

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®