Georg Friedrich Haendel Composer

© Balthasar Denner


George Frideric Handel was born in Halle, Germany, in 1685. He quickly showed an outstanding gift for music. 

He became organist of the Cathedral in Halle, before leaving for Hamburg in 1703, where his first operas were played in 1705. German opera was at its beginnings and the genre was then under the dominant influence of Italian opera, especially Venetian opera. After years of travelling in Italy, where he composed the oratorio La Resurrezione, regarded as one of his first masterpieces, Handel then travelled to London in 1710, and settled there permanently in 1712. 

There, he introduced Italian opera to an almost complete novice audience: Rinaldo, created in 1711, was the first Italian opera especially created for the English stage. In 1719, Handel became director of the Royal Academy of Music, founded by a group of aristocrats close to the British monarchy. In 1727 he became a British subject. But due to many financial difficulties and artistic controversies, the Royal Academy of Music went bankrupt in 1728. 

Handel composed many pieces, including organ concertos, concerti grossi, suites for harpsichord, and outdoor pieces (Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks). However, theatre remained at the centre of his artistic activities throughout his life. 

Of his thirty-nine surviving operas, all but three were composed for London. Composed mainly for the aristocracy, they feature many traits of the court opera of the time, in particular the use of virtuoso singers. 

They all belong to the opera seria genre, with an emphasis of recitatives and arias, leading roles mainly written for castrati and a limited use of ensembles and choruses. The plots are based on classical or historical themes, though some are set in a fantastic world (Alcina, Orlando). The most famous ones are Tamerlano, Rodelinda, Orlando, Ariodante, Xerse

Handel died in London on 14 April 1759. Towards the end of his life, he mostly used his dramatic genius for his oratorios (Samson, Jephtha, The Messiah), freeing himself from the aria da capo’s influence and inventing a new vocal style.

Currently in

  • Palais Garnier
  • on 23 March 2025 at 12 pm
  • Palais Garnier
  • on 09 March 2025 at 8 pm

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