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 very 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 like “The Alchemist,” Ben Jonson had supplied the poetic texts for elaborate masques staged at the court of King James the First. Masques were a kind of precursor of the lavish Baroque operas like 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 himself was on hand to write and stage them. On today’s date in 1713, Handel’s opera “Teseo” had its premiere at the Queen’s Theater 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 RodrigoHallé Orchestra; Sir John Barbirolli, cond.EMI 63956
George Frederic Handel (1685 – 1757)Overture to TeseoThe English Concert;Trevor Pinnock, cond.Archiv 419 219
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