BY EDWARD J. DENT
Birth and parentage—studies under Zachow at Halle—Hamburg—friendship and duel with Mattheson—Almira—departure for Italy.
Arrival in Italy—Rodrigo—Rome: Cardinal Ottoboni and the Scarlattis—Naples: Venice: Agrippina—appointment at Hanover—London: Rinaldo.
Second visit to London—Italian opera—George I and the Water Music—visit to Germany—Canons and the Duke of Chandos—establishment of the Royal Academy of Music.
Buononcini—Cuzzoni, Faustina, and Senesino—death of George I—The Beggar's Opera—collapse of the Academy.
Handel naturalized—partnership with Heidegger—Esther—the Opera of the Nobility—visit to Oxford—opera season at Covent Garden—Charles Jennens—collapse of both opera-houses.
Bankruptcy and paralysis—visit to Aix-la-Chapelle—the last operas—Vauxhall Gardens—Handel's "borrowings"—visit to Ireland—Messiah and other oratorios.
Judas Maccabaeus—Gluck—Thomas Morell—incipient blindness—Telemann and his garden—last oratorios—death—character and personality.
Bibliography and List of Works
1685.... Birth at Halle. 1702.... Entered University; organist of the Cathedral. 1703.... Went to Hamburg. 1705.... First opera: Almira (Hamburg). 1707.... Arrival in Italy. 1710.... Appointment at Hanover; first visit to London. 1711.... First London opera: Rinaldo. 1712.... Second visit to London. 1717.... Appointment to the Duke of Chandos. 1720.... Opening of Royal Academy of Music (Opera). 1726.... Naturalized as a British subject. 1728.... The Beggar's Opera. Collapse of the Academy. 1732.... First public oratorio: Esther. 1733.... Festival at Oxford. 1737.... Collapse of Opera; Handel bankrupt and paralysed. 1741.... Last opera: Deidamia. 1742.... Messiah at Dublin. 1751.... First signs of blindness. Last oratorio Jeptha. 1759.... Death in London.
Birth and parentage—studies under Zachow at Halle—Hamburg—friendship and duel with Mattheson—Almira—departure for Italy.
The name of Handel suggests to most people the sound of music unsurpassed in massiveness and dignity, and the familiar portraits of the composer present us with a man whose external appearance was no less massive and dignified than his music. Countless anecdotes point him out to us as a well-known figure in the life of London during the reigns of Queen Anne and the first two Georges. He lies buried in Westminster Abbey. One would expect every detail of his life to be known and recorded, his every private thought to be revealed with the pellucid clarity of his immortal strains. It is not so; to assemble the bare facts of Handel's life is a problem which has baffled the most laborious of his biographers, and his inward personality is more mysterious than that of any other great musician of the last two centuries.
The Memoirs of the Life of the late George Frederic Handel, written by the Rev. John Mainwaring in 1760, a year after his death, is the first example of a whole book devoted to the biography of a musician. The author had never known Handel himself; he obtained his material chiefly from Handel's secretary, John Christopher Smith the younger. Mainwaring is our only authority for the story of Handel's early life. Many of his statements have been proved to be untrue, but there is undoubtedly a foundation of truth beneath most of them, however misleading either Smith's memory or Mainwaring's imagination may have been. The rest of our knowledge has to be built up from scattered documents of various kinds, helped out by the reminiscences of Dr. Burney and Sir John Hawkins. For the inner life of Mozart and Beethoven we can turn to copious letters and other personal writings; Handel's extant letters do not amount to more than about twenty in all, and it is only rarely that they throw much light on the workings of his mind.
The family of Handel belonged originally to Breslau. The name is found in various forms; it seems originally to have been Haendeler signifying trader, but by the time the composer was born the spelling Haendel had been adopted. This is the correct German form of his name; in Italy he wrote his name Hendel, in order to ensure its proper pronunciation, and in England he was known, for the same reason, as Handel. The Handels of Breslau had for several generations been coppersmiths. Valentine Handel, the composer's grandfather, born in 1582, migrated to Halle, where two of his sons followed the same trade. His third son, George, born 1622, became a barber-surgeon. At the age of twenty he married the widow of the barber to whom he had been apprenticed; she was twelve years older than he was. In 1682 she died, and George Handel, although sixty years of age, married a second wife within half a year. Her name was Dorothea Taust; her father, like most of his ancestors, was a clergyman. Her age was thirty-two. Her first child, born in 1684, died at birth; her second, born February 23, 1685, was baptised the following day with the name of George Frederic.
The town of Halle had originally belonged to the Dukes of Saxony, but after the Thirty Years' War it was assigned to the Elector of Brandenburg. George Frederic Handel was therefore born a Prussian. But Duke Augustus of Saxony was allowed to keep his court at the Moritzburg in Halle, and it was this prince who made George Handel his personal surgeon. After Duke Augustus's death in 1680, Halle was definitely transferred to Brandenburg, and the new Duke, Johann Adolf, took up his residence at Weissenfels, twenty-five miles to the south-west of Halle. At the time of George Frederic's birth, Halle had relapsed into being a quiet provincial town. The musical life of Germany in those days was chiefly centred in the numerous small courts, each of which did its best to imitate the magnificence of Louis XIV at Paris and Versailles. But the seventeenth century, although it produced very few musicians of outstanding greatness, was a century of restless musical activity throughout Europe, especially in the more private and domestic branches of the art. The Reformation had made music the vehicle of personal devotion, and the enormous output of a peculiarly intimate type of sacred music, both in Germany and in England, shows that there must have been a keen demand for it in Protestant home life.
George Handel, the surgeon, seems to have hated music. There is no evidence that either his wife or her sister, who shared their home after her father's death in 1685, was musically gifted, but the mere fact of their being the daughters of a Lutheran pastor makes it probable that they had had some education in the art. We may safely guess that the composer inherited his musical talents from the Taust family. He showed his inclination for music at a very early age, with such insistence indeed that his father forbade him to touch any musical instrument. There is a well-known story of his contriving to smuggle a clavichord into a garret without his father's knowledge in order to practise on it while the rest of the family were asleep, but for this tale Mainwaring is our only authority. It is very probable that old Handel was irritated by the sound of his son's early efforts and regarded music as a waste of time; his wife may perhaps have encouraged the child's obvious abilities, taking care that he made music only in some part of the house where he would not disturb his father.
At the age of seven he was sent to the Lutheran Grammar School, and he may very likely have had some instruction in singing while there. In any case there can be no doubt that he was taught more than the mere rudiments of music in childhood, however severe his father's opposition may have been. He was between seven and nine when his father took him to Weissenfels, where he was required to attend on the Duke. It is quite probable that the child may have been taken there several times, especially as a relative of his was in regular service in the Duke's establishment. One day he was allowed to play on the organ in the palace chapel; the Duke happened to hear him, made enquiries as to who the player was, and at once urged on the father the duty of having him properly trained for a musical career.
Old Handel remained obstinate; he was determined that his son should have a liberal education and become a lawyer. By his own efforts he had raised himself to a position of some distinction and affluence; it was only natural that he should wish his son to enter on life with better advantages than he himself had enjoyed. He at any rate followed the advice of the Duke so far as to place the boy under the musical tuition of Friedrich Zachow, the organist of the Lutheran church at Halle.
The next episode in George Frederic's career has considerably puzzled his biographers. Mainwaring asserts that in 1698 he went to Berlin, where he was presented to the Electress Sophia Charlotte and made the acquaintance of Ariosti and Giovanni Battista Buononcini, two famous Italian opera composers whom he was to encounter again, in London, many years later. But it is known that Ariosti did not arrive in Berlin until the spring of 1697, and Buononcini not until 1702. And as old Handel died in February 1697, his son cannot have been in Berlin later than about the end of 1696, if it is true (as Mainwaring says) that the Elector offered to send him to Italy, an offer which the father firmly refused to accept for him. If, on the other hand, Mainwaring is right in saying that young Handel went to Berlin with a view to obtaining a musical post there, it is hardly likely that he should have made the journey at ten years of age, and while his father was still living. It seems much more probable that if he ever did visit Berlin it was when he was of an age to form his own judgments as to his future career.
Three days before his seventeenth birthday he matriculated as a law student of the University of Halle, but music must have been the chief occupation of his time. The composer Telemann, four years his senior, spoke of him as being already a musician of importance at Halle when he first met him there, probably in 1700. In March 1702 he was appointed organist at the Cathedral, although he belonged to the Lutheran Church, whereas the Cathedral was Calvinist; considerable scandal had been caused by the intemperance of the Cathedral organist, one Leporin, who was finally dismissed. That Handel should have been given the post at so early an age points to his ability and trustworthiness of character; it also suggests that efficient organists were rare among the Calvinist musicians.
Mainwaring unjustly credited Zachow with Leporin's love of a cheerful glass, and other biographers have perhaps for this reason greatly underrated Zachow's musicianship. Zachow cannot indeed be classed as a great composer, but he was considerably more than merely a sound average teacher. For one thing, he possessed a large library of music. Handel was not only made to master the arts of counterpoint and fugue, but he was also set to study the works of other composers, and to train his sense of style by writing music in direct imitation of them. In those days there was no possibility of buying all sorts of music ready printed. Printing was expensive, and generally clumsy in execution as well; most music was copied by hand, and a musician who wished to acquire a library of music generally did so by borrowing it and copying it. Zachow employed Handel to copy music for him, and no doubt he copied a great deal for himself. Although the opportunities for hearing music would not be very liberal in a town like Halle, Handel, under Zachow, became a well-read musician as well as an accomplished one.
During the seventeenth century the chief contribution of Germany to the art of music was religious, just as the German hymns were her chief contribution to poetry. In Italy, on the other hand, sacred music was of minor importance as compared with the development of opera. But in all music Italy led the way, and German sacred music was constantly influenced by the Italians, with the result that Italian dramatic methods were often used by German composers of sacred music, not with any loss of seriousness and dignity to its character, but rather to the intenser expression of that deep personal religious feeling which characterised both the poetry and the music of the Protestant nations.
Zachow was well acquainted with the Italian masters, and his own Church music shows a vivid dramatic sense; it is easy to see how much Handel learned from him. But although Church cantatas and organ music may have sufficed for the majority of the innumerable worthy German musicians of those days, the form of music which excited the curiosity and interest of the livelier spirits was certainly opera. By 1700, opera had established itself all over Italy, supported mainly by the great princes, but at Venice maintained on a commercial basis by the citizens themselves since 1637. The first attempt at a German opera was made by Heinrich Schuetz, at Torgau, ten years earlier. Vienna introduced Italian opera in 1631, and, generally speaking, the Catholic princes of Germany, who one after another followed the example of Vienna, preferred opera in Italian. Protestant Germany inclined more to opera in its own language, though towards the end of the century Italian gradually gained the upper hand at the more important courts. Native German opera owed its origin partly to the visit of the English comedians early in the century, and partly to the musical plays acted by school-boys; from the English "jigs" came the use of short popular songs, and from the school plays the tendency of the early German operas to be of a more or less sacred or edifying character.
Handel's friend, the composer Telemann, tells us that it was not unusual for students from the University of Leipzig to go to Berlin to hear the Italian opera, which had been established by the Electress Sophia Charlotte in 1700, and this suggests that Handel's visit to Berlin may have taken place in 1703 rather than in his childhood. But he certainly had opportunities for seeing operas nearer home. There had been many German operas performed at Halle itself during the twenty years before Handel's birth, and Duke Johann Adolf opened an opera-house at Weissenfels in 1685, in which Philipp Krieger produced German operas regularly for the next thirty years. There was thus every reason for young Handel's growing ambitious to become a composer for the stage, although we have no evidence of his having ever attempted dramatic composition until he left Halle in 1703.
The most important of all the north German opera-houses was that of Hamburg, where the opera did not depend on the patronage of a court, but was organised, as at Venice, as a public entertainment. Hamburg had attempted German opera as early as 1648, and it is interesting to note that the English composer William Brade was one of those who provided the music; but the real history of the Hamburg opera may be said to begin with the performance of Theile's Adam and Eve in the newly built theatre in the Goose-Market in 1678. When Handel arrived in Hamburg in the summer of 1703 the biblical operas had long come to an end, and the theatre was under the management of Reinhold Keiser.
Keiser was a musician of remarkable genius. His father was a disreputable organist, and his mother a young lady of noble family who had been hastily married at the age of sixteen. Born near Weissenfels in 1674, he had begun his operatic career at Brunswick at the age of eighteen; three years later he took over the direction of the opera at Hamburg, where he produced a large number of operas composed by himself. As a composer, Keiser had a singular fluency of melody in a style that hovers between those of Germany and Italy; had he been a man of more solid character he might have accomplished greater things. But he had inherited from his parents a love of pleasure and debauchery; extravagant in his private life, he was no less extravagant in his theatrical management, and was ready to provide his audiences with anything in the way of startling sensation. One of his most famous operas was on the subject of Stoertebeker, a notorious highwayman (1704), in which murders were represented with the most disgusting realism.
Hamburg was the Venice of the north and, like Venice, a city of pleasure; but its pleasures were often of a coarse and licentious description. Life in Hamburg was probably not much unlike that of Restoration London; but though Keiser may well be set beside Purcell, Hamburg had no dramatists to compare with Congreve, hardly even with Shadwell. Jeremy Collier, however, was far outdone in vituperation by the puritan clergy who, not altogether without reason, castigated the immorality of the Hamburg stage.
Handel seems to have arrived in Hamburg in early summer of 1703, for we first hear of him there on July 2, when he met Johann Mattheson in the church of St. Mary Magdalen. It seems to have been a chance acquaintance, to judge from Mattheson's account; it stuck in Mattheson's memory for many years and he remembered especially the pastry-cook's boy who blew the organ for Handel and himself. Mattheson was four years older than Handel; he was one of those precociously gifted, versatile, attractive, and rather vain young men who are endowed with so many talents that they never achieve distinction in any branch of art. He is remembered now only by the literary work of his later life, in which he shows himself as a voluminous pedant and an embittered critic. He made friends with Handel on the spot, and took him under his own protection, providing him with almost daily free meals at his father's house. He evidently regarded him as a very simple and provincial young musician, a notable organist indeed, and a master of such learned devices as counterpoint and fugue, but a dull composer, turning out endless arias and cantatas with no sense of the fashionable Italian taste.
It was Mattheson, by his own account, who introduced Handel to the musical life of Hamburg. The opera was closed for the summer, and Keiser's celebrated winter concerts, at which the wealthy society of Hamburg listened to the most famous singers and regaled themselves with tokay, had not yet begun; but there was no lack of social distractions, in which music no doubt played its part. In August the two friends made a journey to Lubeck, to compete for the post of organist at the Marienkirche in succession to Dietrich Buxtehude, who was nearly seventy and ready to retire. But both Buxtehude and the town council insisted that the new organist should marry his predecessor's daughter, in order to save the town the necessity of providing for her; she was considerably older than the two youthful candidates, and they both withdrew in haste. Late in life Mattheson married the daughter of an English clergyman; Handel remained a bachelor to the end of his days.
It was no doubt through Mattheson that Handel, in the autumn, entered the opera band as a humble second violinist. He seems to have been of a very retiring and quiet disposition, although of a dry humour. Opera management at Hamburg was no less precarious than it was in London; Keiser could not afford the Italian singers patronised by the German princes, and his performances had often to be helped out by amateurs of all classes. On one occasion the harpsichord-player failed him; Handel took his place at short notice, and his musicianship was at once recognised. Unfortunately Mattheson, whose chronology is always rather uncertain, does not tell us when this occurred. In addition to his duties in the orchestra, Handel earned a living by teaching private pupils, and through Mattheson he was engaged by Mr. John Wyche, the English Envoy, as music-master to his small son Cyril.
Early in 1704 Mattheson went to Holland, where he had some success in organising concerts at Amsterdam, and was offered the post of organist at Haarlem. He seems to have had some idea of seeking his fortune in England; he spoke English well, and may have had useful connexions in England through Mr. John Wyche. But in March Handel wrote to him that the Hamburg opera could not get on without him, and to Hamburg he returned. It soon must have become clear to him that Handel was rapidly outgrowing any need of his condescending patronage. A Passion according to St. John, the words of which had been written by Postel, an opera-poet turned pietist, had been set to music by Handel, and performed on Good Friday with marked success. Mattheson arrived too late to hear it, but it is significant that twenty years later he published a scathing criticism of it, although it is a work of little importance in relation to Handel's complete career, and can seldom have been performed. A Passion oratorio by Keiser was produced at the same time, it may well have been that Handel's work, youthful and conventional as it is, was enough to arouse the jealousy of both Keiser and Mattheson.
Shortly after Easter, Keiser began the composition of a new opera, Almira, on a libretto by the local poet Feustking, but for some reason or other he found it necessary to call in Handel's assistance, and eventually left the whole work to Handel to compose. It was to be produced in the autumn. Handel seems to have consulted Mattheson over every detail of the opera; there exists a complete score in Mattheson's handwriting, with corrections and additions by Handel. Mattheson spent the summer enjoying a country holiday in Mecklenburg; Handel probably went on with his opera, at Hamburg. In October, just as the opera season was reopening, Mattheson contrived to get himself engaged by Sir Cyril Wych as tutor to his son; he also took over the boy's musical education, hinting that Handel was dismissed for neglect of his duties. In view of Handel's strictly honourable character it is difficult to believe that he was guilty of neglect, and we may naturally suppose him to have resented the loss of a lucrative appointment.
The first opera of the autumn was not Handel's Almira, but an opera by Mattheson, called Cleopatra. Mattheson, always eager to exhibit his versatility, sang the part of Antony himself, and, not content with that, came into the orchestra as soon as Antony had died on the stage and kept himself in view of the audience by conducting at the harpsichord. For several performances Handel made no objection and gave up his seat to Mattheson when the moment came, but on December 5, for some reason or other, he refused, to the surprise and indignation of the composer. German musicians in those days were a quarrelsome crew; at the court of Stuttgart the musicians were so much given to knocking each other on the head with their instruments, even in the august presence of His Serene Highness, that there was hardly one left undamaged. It was only to be expected that the friends of Handel and Mattheson should egg them on to fight a duel in the street; luckily Mattheson's sword broke on a button of Handel's coat, and the duel ended. On December 30 a town councillor effected a reconciliation; the rivals dined together at Mattheson's house and went on to the rehearsal of Almira, which was brought out on January 8, 1705, with Mattheson as the principal tenor.
Almira, the libretto of which was partly in German and partly in Italian, ran continuously for about twenty performances until February 25, when it was succeeded by Nero, another opera which Handel had hastily composed for the occasion. Nero, in which Mattheson sang the title part, was a failure. The music is lost, but the libretto survives, and that is enough to account for the collapse. The opera had three performances only. In the very same season Keiser re-set Nero to music himself, and brought it out under the title of Octavia; shortly afterwards he did the same with Almira, which was performed in August of the same year. Although Keiser's operas were no more successful than Handel's, and his extravagance and mismanagement forced him to leave Hamburg for three years in order to avoid imprisonment, it is evident that he had made Handel's position in the theatre impossible. Handel withdrew into private life and devoted himself to earning a living by teaching. Mattheson says that Handel remained in Hamburg until 1709, and that he still worked in the theatre, but the first of these statements is certainly untrue, and the second probably so. Mattheson himself left the theatre after the failure of Handel's Nero, and his friendship with Handel seems to have come to an end. About Handel's subsequent life in Hamburg we know nothing, until the theatre was taken over by one Saurbrey in the autumn of 1706. Saurbrey commissioned an opera from Handel, but, owing to the confusion in which Keiser had left the affairs of the theatre, it could not be brought out until January 1708, when it was found to be so long that it had to be divided into two operas, Florindo and Daphne, both of which were put on the stage successively. By that time Handel had left Hamburg for Italy; he evidently took little interest in the production of these works, neither of which has survived.
It was during the run of Almira, says Mainwaring, that Handel made the acquaintance of Prince Gian Gastone de' Medici, son of the Grand Duke Cosmo III of Tuscany. Mainwaring's date is wrong, for it is known that Gian Gastone at that time was in Bohemia with his wife, a German princess, to whom he had been married against his will. But it is also known that he was in Hamburg for a few months during the winter of 1703-04, and, if he met Handel at that time, the rest of Mainwaring's story becomes much more credible than subsequent biographers have been willing to admit. According to Mainwaring, Handel became almost an intimate friend of the Prince; they often discussed music together, and the Prince lamented that Handel was unacquainted with the music and musical life of Italy. "Handel confessed that he could see nothing in Italian music which answered the high character His Highness had given it. On the contrary, he thought it so very indifferent, that the singers, he said, must be angels to recommend it." Gian Gastone urged him to come to Italy and hear for himself, intimating "that if he chose to return with him, no conveniences should be wanting." Handel declined the invitation, but resolved to go to Italy as soon as he could do so "on his own bottom."
Gian Gastone was a spendthrift and a profligate; his moral reputation was of the worst, and he was chronically in debt. That, however, would not make it unthinkable that after a glass of wine he should invite Handel to come to Italy with him, but Handel may well have known enough about the Prince even then to reply to the proposal with tactful evasiveness. From what Mattheson says of Handel on his first arrival in Hamburg, it is quite likely that he was contemptuous of Italian opera music, and it is equally likely that after the success of Almira his views on Italian opera underwent a change. It is obvious that Hamburg had no further chances to offer him, and the attraction of Italy was at that time so vivid to all young German musicians that not one of them would have refused an opportunity of making the journey.
The date of Handel's departure from Hamburg is unknown, nor have we the slightest information as to his whereabouts until we hear of him at Rome in January 1707. Chrysander's statement that he spent Christmas 1706 with his mother at Halle is manifestly untrue. Mattheson says that he travelled to Rome with a Herr von Binitz, but nothing is known of this gentleman. His most natural route into Italy would be by the Brenner, the historic road of all German pilgrims.
Handel may well have been glad to leave Hamburg, but Hamburg did not forget him. He is mentioned in a theatrical manifesto of 1708 as being already "beloved and celebrated in Italy"; Barthold Feind, one of the Hamburg librettists, who in 1715 translated Handel's Rinaldo, called him "the incomparable Handel, the Orpheus of our time"; and from 1715 to 1734 almost all of Handel's London operas were represented on the Hamburg stage.
Arrival in Italy—Rodrigo—Rome: Cardinal Ottoboni and the Scarlattis—Naples: Venice: Agrippina—appointment at Hanover—London: Rinaldo.
Handel spent three years in Italy. The known facts about his life there are singularly few, and his biographers have often had to draw copiously on their imagination. They may perhaps be forgiven for doing so, since they rightly sought to emphasise the fact that these three years were the most formative period of Handel's personality as a composer. Handel came to Italy as a German; he left Italy an Italian, as far as his music was concerned, and, despite all other influences, Italian was the foundation of his musical language until the end of his life.
On January 14, 1707, a Roman chronicler noted the arrival of "a Saxon, an excellent player on the harpsichord and a composer of music, who has to-day displayed his ability in playing the organ in the church of St. John [Lateran] to the amazement of everyone." This can hardly refer to anyone else than Handel, who throughout his sojourn in Italy was always known as "the Saxon" (il Sassone). We owe the discovery of this important document to Mr. Newman Flower. The next date known to us is that of April 11—on the manuscript of Handel's Dixit Dominus, composed in Rome.
Most biographers have, however, assumed that Handel's first halt in Italy would have been made at Florence, in view of the fact that Gian Gastone de' Medici is known to have been at Florence from June 1705 to November 1706. The eldest son of the Grand Duke, Prince Ferdinand, was an enthusiastic patron of music, who employed the best musicians of the day to perform operas in his magnificent country palace at Pratolino, some twelve miles north of Florence. It has been suggested that Handel's first Italian opera, Rodrigo, was composed for Ferdinand and performed early in 1707, but, in view of Mr. Flower's discovery, this seems unlikely. Mr. Flower suggests, indeed, that Ferdinand did not take much interest in Handel, otherwise he would not have allowed him to go to Rome so soon. This is not impossible, for we know that Ferdinand found the operas of Alessandro Scarlatti too serious for his taste, and he may well have thought even less of Handel's music, which (as we can see from the score of Rodrigo) was still very German in style.
Rome could offer Handel no opportunities either for composing operas or even for hearing them. Pope Clement X had permitted the opening of a public opera-house (the Teatro Tordinona) in 1671, but it was closed five years later by Innocent XI, who made every effort he could to suppress opera both in public and in private. Innocent XII, who became Pope in 1691, seems to have been, at first, less intolerant, for the theatre was rebuilt, and a few performances were given; but in 1697 he ordered its destruction on grounds of public morality. Except for a few performances of opera in private in 1701 and 1702 no operas were produced in Rome until 1709.
Deprived of opera, the Romans devoted themselves to oratorio—which in musical style was much the same thing—and to chamber music. The most generous patron of music in Rome was the young Cardinal Ottoboni, who had been raised to the purple in his early twenties, in 1690. He had indeed composed an opera himself, which was performed in 1692, but he was more competent as a poet than as a musician; in 1690 Alessandro Scarlatti had set a libretto of his, La Statira.
Handel was no doubt recommended to him by Ferdinand de' Medici, and at the Cardinal's weekly musical parties he soon came into contact with Domenico Scarlatti, as well as with Corelli and Pasquini. Alessandro Scarlatti had left Naples, probably for political reasons, in 1702, and at the end of 1703 Ottoboni had secured him a subordinate post at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, at the same time appointing him his private director of music. Domenico was a young man of Handel's own age—"a young eagle" as his father called him—brilliantly gifted, and (to judge from Thomas Roseingrave's impression of him) possessed of a singular personal fascination. "Handel," says Mainwaring, "used often to speak of this person with great satisfaction; and indeed there was reason for it; for besides his great talents as an artist, he had the sweetest temper, and the genteelest behaviour." We may indeed regard his friendship with Handel as safely authenticated. It is just possible that Handel may have met Alessandro Scarlatti at Pratolino in the previous autumn, as his opera Il Gran Tamerlano was produced there in September; he may well have met him between January and April of 1707. From April to September Alessandro Scarlatti was in Urbino.
Handel's movements now become very difficult to follow. It seems probable that his opera Rodrigo was performed at Florence in the autumn of 1707; Mainwaring says that it was composed for Ferdinand de' Medici, but there is no record of any performance at Pratolino. As Handel is said to have been presented to Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover at Venice, he must have been there in October or November, as the Prince is known to have spent only those two months in that city. Whether Handel remained at Venice over Christmas, or whether he returned to Rome, is uncertain. Domenico Scarlatti is said to have identified him at Venice at a masquerade by his playing of the harpsichord. It would be most natural to suppose then that Handel and the two Scarlattis were in Venice together for the production of Alessandro's two operas, Mitridate Eupatore and Il Trionfo della Liberta, both of which were brought out at Venice in 1707, but, as it is not known whether this took place at the beginning or at the end of the year, there is not sufficient evidence to support such a conjecture.
During March and April 1708, Handel was the guest of Prince Ruspoli in Rome; this has been definitely ascertained by Mr. Flower. Prince Ruspoli was another great Roman patron of music, and Scarlatti frequently composed works for him; his Annunciation Oratorio was performed under his auspices on March 25. On Easter Sunday, April 8, Handel made a triumphal appearance with La Resurrezione, which was given on a sumptuous scale, at Ruspoli's expense, in the Palazzo Bonelli, which he was occupying at the time. Corelli led the orchestra.
After La Resurrezione, Handel seems to have returned to the patronage of Cardinal Ottoboni, in whose palace he produced a serenata (i.e. an allegorical cantata) called Il Trionfa del Tempo e del Disinganno, which he remodelled fifty years afterwards as The Triumph of Time and Truth. The libretto was by Cardinal Pamphilij. It was the overture to this work which caused so much difficulty to Corelli. Handel, irritated at his lack of understanding, snatched the violin from his hand and played the passage himself, to show how it should be executed; Corelli, gentlest of souls, took no offence, although thirty-two years his senior and the greatest violinist living, but merely observed, "My dear Saxon, this music is in the French style, of which I have no knowledge."
It has been assumed by many biographers that Handel attended the meetings of the Arcadian Academy, and since Prince Ruspoli was a great, benefactor to the Academy, this is extremely probable, although there is no evidence for it. Handel was not a member of the Academy, and various reasons for this have been suggested, such as that he was a foreigner and also too young to be admitted. It is more probable that his admission to that exclusive society was never even contemplated; musicians were generally engaged professionally for the concerts of the Italian academies, but very seldom admitted to the honour of membership. Corelli, Pasquini and Alessandro Scarlatti were all admitted together in 1705; they were the three senior and most distinguished composers of the time, and as no other musicians were then members, it may be assumed that these elections constituted an exceptional honour.
Mainwaring relates that Cardinal Pamphili; on one occasion wrote a poem in honour of Handel and desired him to set it to music himself; in this poem "he was compared to Orpheus, and exalted above the rank of mortals." Later biographers, being unable to trace any music of Handel to this poem, assumed that Handel was too modest to sing his own praises; but he was not, for the original manuscript of the cantata was found by the present writer in the University Library at Muenster in Westphalia. As Mainwaring informs us, Handel is compared by the poet (whose name is not given) to Orpheus and indeed exalted above him. "Orpheus," says the Cardinal, "could move rocks and trees, but he could not make them sing; therefore thou art greater than Orpheus, for thou compellest my aged Muse to song." The style of both words and music suggests that the whole cantata was thrown off, as Mainwaring suggests, on the spur of the moment, and this improvisation may well have taken place at one of the Arcadians' garden parties, for there is a well-known account of a similar improvisation by the poet Zappi and the composer Alessandro Scarlatti.
Handel was by this time fully accepted as one of the leading musicians in Italy, for in June he composed a pastoral, Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, for the marriage of the Duke of Alvito at Naples on July 19. It was in July 1708 that the Austrian Viceroy of Naples, Count Daun, was succeeded by Cardinal Grimani, who, towards the end of the year, persuaded Alessandro Scarlatti to return to the service of the royal chapel. As a good friend to Scarlatti, the Cardinal was sure to interest himself in Handel, and it was probably through him that Handel was commissioned to write an opera for Venice, as the Grimani were a great Venetian family and owned the principal opera-house there. How long Handel stayed at Naples we do not know; all that Mainwaring tells us is that he was taken up by a Spanish princess, but, as Naples had belonged to Spain for a hundred and fifty years, Spanish princesses can have been no rarities there, and it is impossible to identify this lady.
From July 1708 until December 1709 we lose sight of Handel entirely. On December 26, the first night of the carnival season, his opera Agrippina was produced at Venice. The libretto was by Cardinal Grimani, who had already written other dramas for music, all produced, like Handel's, at the Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo in Venice. Venice was the first city which had undertaken opera on a commercial basis, open to the public on payment, whereas in other places it depended for many years on the munificence of princes and nobles. At Venice there existed not one theatre, but several, devoted to opera, each called after the name of the parish in which it was situated, and, of these, the theatre of St. John Chrysostom, built by the Grimani family and still standing (though much remodelled) under the name of Teatro Malibran, was the largest and most important. The Inquisition took a more tolerant view of opera than the Pope; a Venetian preacher admonished actors and singers to remember that they "were abominated of God, but tolerated by the Government by desire of those who took delight in their iniquities."
Agrippina aroused an extraordinary enthusiasm. "The theatre, at almost every pause, resounded with shouts and acclamations of viva il taro Sassone! and other expressions of approbation too extravagant to be mentioned" (Mainwaring). The title part was sung by Margherita Durastanti, and another singer who appeared in the opera was Boschi, the famous bass; both of them were to sing for Handel in London later on. It is fairly certain that Boschi must have sung the part of Polyphemus in Handel's Italian Aci e Galatea at Naples, for it bears a striking resemblance to other songs written for Boschi, whose voice was of exceptional range. The opera ran for twenty-seven nights.
After this unprecedented triumph it seems surprising that Handel did not remain in Italy, where he had so many friends who could ensure his success. It is probable that by the time Agrippina was performed, if not indeed long before, he had been promised the post of Kapellmeister to the court of Hanover. The actual appointment is dated June 16, 1710. But no sooner was Handel appointed than he at once obtained leave of absence, and went on, first to Duesseldorf, and then to London. It was probably the Elector's intention that he should spend some time in foreign travel before taking up regular duty.
The three years which Handel spent in Italy at the most impressionable period of his life fixed the characteristics of his style as a composer, and we may well suppose that they exercised a decisive influence on his personality and character. His youth had been spent in the respectable middle-class environment of his home at Halle; then came the three years at Hamburg, fantastic and exciting, yet, despite all the artistic stimulus of Keiser's opera-house, inevitably sordid and provincial. Italy introduced him to an entirely different atmosphere—to a life of dignity and serenity in which a classical culture, both literary and artistic, was the matured fruit of wealth, leisure, and good breeding. That exquisite life found its highest musical expression in Alessandro Scarlatti, who at that period was incontestably the greatest of living musicians. On his style Handel formed his own, and it is interesting to note that of all Scarlatti's operas the one which most strikingly foreshadows the genius of Handel is Mitridate, which Handel may possibly have seen at Venice in the winter of 1707-08. The musical library of Handel's English friend Charles Jennens contained a large collection of Scarlatti's manuscripts, and there can be little doubt that it was Handel who brought them with him from Italy.
In Venice, Handel had made the acquaintance of Prince Ernest of Hanover, younger brother of the Elector Georg Ludwig who was eventually to become King of England as George I. With Prince Ernest was Baron Kielmansegge, who for many years afterwards remained a firm supporter of Handel, and another Venetian acquaintance was the Duke of Manchester, English Ambassador to the Republic of Venice. Through Prince Ernest, and Kielmansegge, Handel was recommended to the court of Hanover; the Duke of Manchester gave him a pressing invitation to England. Music in Hanover was under the direction of an Italian, Agostino Steffani, who was not only a musician but priest and diplomatist as well. Born at Castelfranco in 1654, he was taken as a boy to Munich, where he studied music, and, in 1680 entered the priesthood; he produced several operas there, and about 1689 became Kapellmeister to the court of Hanover. Here he was employed on important diplomatic business; Pope Innocent XI made him titular Bishop of Spiga in the West Indies, and in 1698 he was Ambassador at Brussels. In 1709 he became the Pope's representative for North Germany, and it was doubtless owing to his heavy ecclesiastical duties that he resigned his musical post in favour of Handel, although Hanover remained his chief place of residence until his death in 1728. He was in Rome in 1708 and 1709, and it has been suggested that he made Handel's acquaintance there, but this hardly seems consistent with Handel's own statement, recorded by Hawkins in his History of Music: "When I first arrived at Hanover I was a young man under twenty; I was acquainted with the merits of Steffani and he had heard of me. I understood somewhat of music, and could play pretty well on the organ; he received me with great kindness, and took an early opportunity to introduce me to the Princess Sophia and the Elector's son, giving them to understand that I was what he was pleased to call a virtuoso in music; he obliged me with instructions for my conduct and behaviour during my residence at Hanover; and being called from the city to attend to matters of a public concern, he left me in possession of that favour and patronage which himself had enjoyed for a series of years." These statements of Handel seem, in fact, to point to his having visited Hanover before he went to Italy, possibly before he went to Hamburg, or, more probably, during the course of his Hamburg period, in which case one might conclude that the Electress Sophia had defrayed the cost of Handel's Italian journey. Even if Handel made a mistake as to his age, he clearly implies that his first meeting with Steffani took place in Hanover.
At Duesseldorf, Handel was sure of a warm welcome, for the Elector Johann Wilhelm was a close friend of Steffani, and his wife was a sister of Ferdinand and Gian Gastone de' Medici; he was a man of extravagant tastes, and his opera-house was maintained on the most magnificent scale. But Handel did not stay there long; England was a greater attraction, and he arrived in London for the first time in the autumn of 1710.
Nothing is known of Handel's early days in London, but it may be safely assumed that he was provided with letters of introduction to persons of influence. We meet him first in the company of Heidegger, a Swiss adventurer who achieved notoriety through his incredible ugliness, and from 1709 onwards was concerned in the management of the opera at the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket. Through Heidegger, Handel was introduced to Mary Granville, then a little girl of ten, whom he delighted by his performance on her own spinet. Her uncle, Sir John Stanley, asked her if she thought she should ever play as well as Mr. Handel. "If I did not think I should," she cried, "I would burn my instrument!" Mary Granville, who, seven years later, married a Mr. Pendarves, and in 1743 became the wife of Dr. Delany, was for many years one of Handel's most faithful friends and supporters.
In the reign of Queen Anne the musical life of London was developing in a new fashion as compared with what it was in the last twenty years of the previous century. The type of English opera which Purcell and Dryden had created came to an end with Purcell's death in 1695. Italian music, especially when sung by Italian singers, was gradually becoming more and more popular with London concert-audiences, and in 1705 Thomas Clayton produced at Drury Lane an opera called Arsinoe, Queen of Cyprus. Clayton had visited Italy, and had brought back with him a collection of Italian songs; he got Peter Motteux to translate for him an old Italian opera libretto, and adapted these songs to it. How much of Arsinoe was Clayton's own work is not known; Burney speaks of the opera with nothing but contempt. Yet it seems to have had some fair success, and was even revived the following year; but Clayton's Rosamond, to a libretto by Addison, did not survive three performances. It was followed by a series of Italian operas composed by Buononcini, Scarlatti, and others; at first the operas were in English, and sung by English singers, but gradually Italian was introduced, as at Hamburg, and in 1710 an opera called Almahide, the music of which Burney ascribes conjecturally to Buononcini, was given in Italian with an entirely Italian company. The victory of the Italians was due mainly to the marvellous singing and acting of Nicola Grimaldi, known as Nicolini, who first appeared in London in Scarlatti's Pyrrhus and Demetrius. Nicolini was not the first castrato who had been heard in England; the famous Siface had been brought over by Queen Mary of Modena in 1687. But Nicolini was the first who appeared on the English stage, and it was he who paved the way for Senesino, Farinelli, and the rest, and established that annual season of Italian opera which is not yet extinct.
At the time when Handel arrived in London the opera company had migrated from Drury Lane to Vanbrugh's new theatre in the Haymarket, where it was under the management of Aaron Hill, an enterprising young man of Handel's own age who was ready to pursue any sort of career that chance might offer him, whether in literature, music, or business adventure. We may safely hazard a guess that it was Boschi who persuaded Hill to invite Handel to compose an opera for the Queen's Theatre, as Boschi had already sung, in November 1710, in Hydaspes, an opera by Francesco Mancini, in which Nicolini delighted his audience in a fight with a lion. Hill sketched a plot based on Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, and an Italian libretto was hastily provided by Giacomo Rossi, Handel composing the music at the same time, and often overtaking the poet. The music, in fact, was completed in a fortnight, and the opera of Rinaldo was first produced on the stage on February 24, 1711. To judge from Burney's account of the preceding weeks of the season, coupled with this astonishingly rapid collaboration, it is probable that Hill was in a difficult situation, from which only a new and strikingly successful opera could save him. Rinaldo achieved the desired success; it did more, it established Handel's reputation in England as a dramatic composer, and set London a new standard in Italian opera. The previous Italian operas had been works of little distinction, and some of them had even been pasticcio operas, as they were called, put together from songs by various composers. Even Scarlatti's Pyrrhus and Demetrius paled beside the new opera of Handel, for it had been written as far back as 1694, and was in a style which Scarlatti himself had long abandoned.
Rinaldo had fifteen performances in the course of the season. It provoked bitter attacks from Addison in the Spectator and from Steele in the Tatler, but everybody knew that Addison's vanity was wounded by the grotesque failure of Rosamond, and that Steele had interests in the playhouse. It was useless at that particular moment to champion the cause of English opera, for England happened to possess not a single composer who was equal to the task of writing one.
The opera season came to an end in June, and Handel left London for Germany. He did not go straight back to Hanover, but stayed at Duesseldorf again, where the Elector was evidently desirous of keeping him as long as possible, for the Elector himself wrote more than once to Hanover to make excuses for Handel's prolonged absence from his official duties. Handel may well have felt that Hanover was a dull place as compared with London. There was no opera, and his chief function was to compose Italian chamber duets for the Princess Caroline of Ansbach; afterwards Queen of England. But he may well have taken pleasure in her service, for she was an excellent musician and no mean singer. In November 1711 Handel paid a visit to Halle, in order to stand godfather to his niece, Johanna Friderica Michaelsen, the daughter of his surviving sister, who eventually inherited the bulk of his fortune. Some biographers have stated that Handel had already revisited his birthplace in 1710 before going to London. Mainwaring is their authority for this, but Mainwaring habitually confused dates and more probably referred to the visit of 1711, for which we have the certain evidence of Friderica Michaelsen's baptismal register. It is clear that the alleged visit of 1710 was suggested merely by a desire to make the most of Handel's affection for his mother, which Mainwaring had already emphasised. Mainwaring, however, went beyond the truth in saying that she had become blind; she did eventually lose her sight, but not until some twenty years later.
Handel appears to have remained at Hanover until the autumn of 1712, when he obtained permission to go to London again "on condition that he engaged to return within a reasonable time" (Mainwaring). What period was to be considered reasonable we do not know. Handel had certainly been planning this London visit for some time, as he was corresponding with friends in England, and was also taking some trouble to improve his knowledge of the English language. It is not surprising that he hankered after London, for London offered him a society which bore more resemblance to the world which he had known at Rome. The tradition of Italian culture had for generations been more firmly implanted in England than anywhere in Germany, except perhaps in Vienna, and, since those three years in Italy, Handel's musical outlook had become completely Italian, as his music shows. The few attempts which he made at German Church music present a curious contrast of style; one could hardly believe them to be the work of that Handel whom we have adopted as our own. German music at that date was provincial; Italian music was the music of the great world, because it was the music of the theatre. It was to the theatre that Handel looked forward, and London had what even Rome had not—an opera, and an Italian opera. The success of Rinaldo had shown him that London was the place where he might launch out into a triumphal career as a composer for the stage.
Second visit to London—Italian opera—George I and the Water Music—visit to Germany—Canons and the Duke of Chandos—establishment of the Royal Academy of Music.
For the greater part of the nineteenth century the Handelian type of opera was the laughingstock of musical critics; they wondered how any audiences could have endured to sit through it, and why the fashionable society of London should have neglected native music for what Dr. Johnson defined as "an exotic and irrational entertainment." The modern reader's impression of an Italian opera of Handel's days is a story about some ancient or mediaeval hero whose very name is often to most people unknown; if he happens to be someone as famous as Julius Caesar, the familiar episodes of his life are sacrificed to some imaginary and complicated intrigue presented in the form of long and elaborate songs, thinly accompanied, and separated by stretches of dreary recitative. But in those days persons of culture, in England as well as in Italy, were perhaps more interested in ancient history and in the history of the later Roman Empire than they are now; it is significant that Gibbon's Decline and Fall made its appearance just when the fashion for operas on subjects which might have been taken from its pages was coming to an end.
The conventional treatment of those subjects, which makes all the operas seem exactly alike, was the result of a certain literary reform which had tended to standardise opera libretti under the influence of Racine, and it was really a movement towards dignity and dramatic unity after the monstrous confusion of the earlier Venetian operas. As to the conventionality of the music, and its forms of air and recitative, it can only be said that all serious Italian music was written in these forms; it was simply the normal musical style of the period, and must have been as natural to its own audiences as the style of Puccini or Richard Strauss at the present day. Handelian opera has often been described as a concert in costume, and Dr. Burney, writing as late as 1789, both admits this description and defends it.
"An opera, at the worst, is still better than a concert merely for the ear, or a pantomime entertainment for the eye. Supposing the articulation to be wholly unintelligible, we have an excellent union of melody and harmony, vocal as well as instrumental, for the ear. And, according to Sir Richard Steele's account of Nicolini's action, 'it was so significant, that a deaf man might go along with him in the sense of the part he acted.'
"No one will dispute but that understanding Italian would render our entertainment at an opera more rational and more complete; but without that advantage, let it be remembered by the lovers of Music, that an opera is the completest concert to which they can go; with this advantage over those in still life, that to the most perfect singing, and effects of a powerful and well-disciplined band, are frequently added excellent acting, splendid scenes and decorations, with such dancing as a playhouse, from its inferior prices, is seldom able to furnish."
Orchestral concerts in those days did not exist; concerts of any kind were rare, and the best were to be heard in that historic room over Thomas Britton's small coal shop, in Clerkenwell, where Handel himself sometimes played on a chamber-organ for the genuine musical enthusiasts of London society. It was no wonder that Italian opera became fashionable. Italian singers have always been unrivalled in popular favour, and in Handel's days they were not only something new to England, but were the exponents of a vocal art which admittedly has never been surpassed. The theatre was new and sumptuous; society was wealthy and at the same time exclusive; at the opera the great world met together as in a sort of club. People went to talk and to be seen as well as to see and hear; they do so in certain opera-houses still. And the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket possessed the greatest opera-composer living, a greater even than Scarlatti himself.
It was a period when there was still a considerable tradition of musicianship among the amateurs of English society. Old Countess Granville, known to her younger relatives as "the Dragon," who had lived all through the age of Locke and Purcell, wrote, at the age of eighty, to her cousin Mrs. Pendarves—Handel's child friend Mary Granville—in 1734: "There is, I think, no accomplishment so great for a lady as music, for it tunes the mind." There were plenty of people in the great houses capable of appreciating the merits of Handel, or at any rate of constituting themselves his enemies.
Handel must have arrived in England at least as early as the beginning of October 1712, for the manuscript of Il Pastor Fido, the first new opera which he produced, is dated, at the end, "Londres, ce 24 Octobre." The opera-house was now under the management of Owen MacSwiney, who seems to have been both incompetent and unreliable. Il Pastor Fido did not attract the public, and was withdrawn after six performances, but Handel soon had another opera ready to take its place. Teseo was finished on December 19, and brought out on January 10, 1713; it was a romantic-heroic opera, closely modelled on Rinaldo, with an abundance of scenic effects. After the second performance MacSwiney disappeared, leaving the singers unpaid as well as the scene-painters and costume-makers. The company carried on the season undeterred, and the management was taken over by Heidegger. Handel's opera was performed twelve times—on the last night for the composer's benefit; between the acts he gave a performance himself on the harpsichord.
For the moment, however, the operatic situation was not encouraging, and Handel turned his thoughts in other directions. He had stayed first at the London house of a Mr. Andrews of Barn Elms in Surrey, but he soon transferred himself to the house of Lord Burlington in Piccadilly. Lord Burlington was only seventeen years of age, but he and his mother made Burlington House an artistic and literary centre comparable with the palaces of Cardinal Ottoboni and Prince Ruspoli at Rome. As the libretto of Teseo is dedicated to him, he must have taken Handel under his patronage soon after his arrival in England, but the precise date at which Handel went to live with him is uncertain. According to Hawkins, he stayed at Burlington House for three years, meeting Pope, Gay, and Dr. Arbuthnot, as well as many other "men of the first eminence for genius." But Gay does not seem to have met Lord Burlington until 1715, and Pope mentions him first in 1718. It is thought that Handel's little opera, Silla, may have been written for a private performance at Burlington House in 1714, and the dedication of Amadigi, Handel's next opera (1715), indicates that the music was composed within his patron's own walls.
One of Handel's favourite haunts in London was St. Paul's Cathedral, where Brind the organist often persuaded him to play the organ after evening service, to the great delight of the congregation. He appears to have made Brind's acquaintance first through young Maurice Greene, then aged seventeen, who had been a chorister of St. Paul's, and, after his voice broke in 1710, was articled to Brind as a pupil. After service was over, Handel, Greene, and some of the members of the choir would repair to the Queen's Arms Tavern close by for an evening of music and musical conversation.
This friendly association with St. Paul's was no doubt of great value to Handel in his next musical undertakings—the Birthday Ode for Queen Anne, and the Te Deum which celebrated the Peace of Utrecht in 1713. The Queen's patronage may very likely have been obtained for him by Lady Burlington, as she was one of the Ladies of the Bedchamber. These two works are important landmarks in Handel's career, as they were his first compositions to English words, and his first compositions for English ceremonial occasions. They marked him out as the natural successor to Purcell, and it is evident that in each case he took Purcell's similar composition as his model. Up till now he had been a foreigner engaged to provide Italian opera for the amusement of fashionable society; with the Birthday Ode he became a court musician to the Queen of England, and with the Te Deum his music entered St. Paul's.
The practical result of the Ode was a pension of L200 a year conferred on him by Queen Anne. It is clear that he now regarded England as his permanent home, regardless of the fact that he was officially the servant of the Elector of Hanover and had undertaken to return thither "within a reasonable time." But on August 1, 1714, the Queen died, and the Elector was proclaimed King of England. When George I came over to his new country, Handel did not dare to show himself at court, and all efforts on the part of his friends to effect a reconciliation with the King were in vain. The King went to see his new opera, Amadigi, which came out late in the season of 1715, but refused to pardon him, until Handel's old Venetian acquaintance, Baron Kielmansegge, now Master of the Horse, devised an ingenious expedient for surprising the King into clemency.
One of the favourite amusements of London society was to make up a water-party on the Thames, with a band of musicians in attendance. Mrs. Pendarves describes a party of this kind in July 1722; they rowed up to Richmond, where they had supper, and "were entertained all the time by very good music [for wind instruments] in another barge." Baron Kielmansegge arranged that the King should go for an excursion of this kind, and that, without his knowledge, Handel should conduct appropriate music of his own in a barge that followed the King's. As the Baron was often in charge of the music for such occasions, this can have been a matter of no great difficulty; in any case it achieved the desired result. The King was enchanted with the music, and restored Handel to favour. As Mainwaring tells this story just before speaking of Amadigi, it has generally been assumed that this episode took place in the summer of 1715, but more recently it has been ascribed to 1717, on the strength of a long account of a royal water-party, with music by Handel, given in the Daily Courant, a newspaper of the period. This account was copied by the Envoy of Brandenburg at the court of St. James's and despatched by him to Berlin; the discovery of this document has led certain writers to cast doubt on Mainwaring's story. Streatfeild is probably right in suggesting that Mainwaring's story refers to an earlier water-party, and that Handel contributed music frequently for such occasions. He also points out that the celebrated Water Music was not published until 1740, and that it may quite well have been collected from various aquatic programmes.
Hawkins relates the story of the Water Music, evidently copying from Mainwaring; but Hawkins had known Handel personally, and had been supplied by him with certain reminiscences, one of which was unknown to Mainwaring. According to this anecdote, recorded by Hawkins, the reconciliation with George I was due to the violinist Geminiani, who had composed a set of sonatas dedicated to Baron Kielmansegge; Geminiani was a notoriously difficult player to accompany, and insisted on Handel, and no other, taking the harpsichord when he went to play the sonatas to the King.
Mr. Flower, in his life of Handel, refuses all credit to Mainwaring's well-known tale, and takes the view that the King never had any quarrel with Handel at all. In any case it seems certain that he confirmed the pension granted to him by Queen Anne, and added a further L200 a year of his own. A few years later, Handel received yet another L200 a year—from Caroline of Ansbach, now Princess of Wales, for teaching her daughters the harpsichord, so that he enjoyed a settled income of L600 a year for the rest of his life.
Amadigi, produced May 25, 1715, did not have many performances, as the season ended on July 9, but it attracted considerable attention, partly because that old favourite, Nicolini, sang in it again, and also on account of its elaborate staging. "There is more enchantment and machinery in this opera," says Dr. Burney, "than I have ever found to be announced in any other musical drama performed in England."
During the following season, which did not begin until February 1716, both Rinaldo and Amadigi were revived, but Handel produced no new opera. The King seems to have wished to see Nicolini in his older parts; Pyrrhus and Demetrius was revived, as well as other operas of the days before Handel's first arrival in England. In July, at the end of the season, George I returned to Hanover, where he remained until the end of the year. Handel accompanied him, but seems to have had freedom to travel, for he visited Hamburg, where he avoided meeting his old friend Mattheson, though he corresponded with him from a safe distance. He also went to Halle, where his mother was still living; Zachow, however, was dead, and had left his widow in straitened circumstances, with an idle and intemperate son. Handel helped the widow, and continued to send her money in later years, but he eventually came to the conclusion that it was useless to do anything for the son. From Halle he went on to Ansbach, no doubt on some commission from the Princess of Wales. At Ansbach he found an old friend from the University of Halle, Johann Christoph Schmidt, who was established in a woollen business. Although Schmidt was married and had a family, he was persuaded by Handel to leave these behind at Ansbach and to travel with him to London, where he spent the rest of his life as Handel's faithful secretary and copyist. His son came over later on, and, after Handel had provided for his education, assisted his father in looking after Handel during his old age.
During these six months in Germany, Handel reverted for a moment to German music; he set what is known as the Brockes Passion, a sacred cantata in verse by the Hamburg poet Brockes, which had already been set once by Keiser. Later on it was set to music again by two of Handel's former friends, first by Telemann, and then by Mattheson. Little is known about the composition of this work; Handel apparently had a copy made after his return to England and sent this to Mattheson, and it was performed at Hamburg in 1717. Handel does not seem to have had it performed in England; he used up the music afterwards for other works. Chrysander attributed to 1716 a set of nine German songs with violin obbligato to semi-sacred words by Brockes; but there is some difficulty about accepting this date, for, although eight of the poems had already been printed by Brockes, there is one which is found only in the second edition of the book, printed in 1724.
The King came back to London in January 1717, and it is supposed that Handel came with him. The opera was on the verge of collapse. Rinaldo and Amadigi were once more revived for Nicolini, but Handel contributed no new work, and, after the season came to an end in July, there was no more Italian opera in London until 1720. It was during this period that Handel became musical director to the Duke of Chandos, for whom he composed works of a character new both to England and to himself.
James Brydges, first Duke of Chandos, had built himself an Italian palace at Canons, near Edgware, in which he must have outdone even the magnificent Lord Burlington in sumptuousness and ostentation. Like a German princeling, he kept his choir and his band of musicians, though there seems to be no evidence that he was himself genuinely musical. The chapel of the house, a florid Italian baroque building with frescoes in the appropriate style by Italian painters, was opened in 1720, and the anthem for the occasion was no doubt one of Handel's. It is not known what music of Handel's was performed at the Duke's private concerts, but for the services of the chapel he composed the famous Chandos Te Deum and the twelve Chandos Anthems. Here again Purcell was his model, but the style was Handel's own, a style indeed so appropriate to the formal stateliness of the Duke's establishment that these works have never become part of the ordinary cathedral repertory. It was to Purcell, and to some extent to Scarlatti too, that Handel owed the general plan of the anthems with their orchestral accompaniments, but even Purcell's anthems with orchestra had by that time been found too elaborate for general use.
To the Chandos period belongs also a work which is still one of Handel's most popular compositions, the English Acis and Galatea, to words by John Gay. It was not a revision of the serenata which he wrote at Naples, but an entirely new work. More important as a landmark in Handel's development is the masque of Esther, originally called Haman and Mordecai. About the early history of these works little is known; both were intended to be acted on the stage, and they were very probably performed in this way at Canons. The words of Esther were adapted from Racine's play of the same name, and it has been suggested that Pope was the author.
Handel's residence at Canons gave rise to two legends about him which are still so often repeated that their absurdity must be mentioned here, although they have been known for many years to be baseless. One is perpetuated by an inscription on the organ in the church at Whitchurch, to the effect that Handel composed the oratorio of Esther on this instrument. Handel was never organist at Whitchurch; the church existed in his day, but it was an entirely separate building from the private chapel of the Duke of Chandos which was pulled down with the house. The organ of that chapel is now at Gosport. It need hardly be said that in any case it was not Handel's practice to compose his works on an organ. The other, and even more popular, legend is that of "The Harmonious Blacksmith." It was during the Canons period that Handel published his Suites de Pieces pour le Clavecin (1720) which had probably been composed for the daughters of the Princess of Wales, and one of these suites contains the air and variations known by that familiar title. But the air was never called by this name before 1820; about that time a young music-seller at Bath, who had previously been a blacksmith's apprentice, earned the nickname of "the harmonious blacksmith" because he was always singing that particular tune. Somehow the name got transferred from the singer to the song, and in 1835 the story of Handel's having been inspired to compose the tune after hearing a blacksmith at Edgware produce musical notes from his anvil was first put into print in a letter to The Times. Not long afterwards an imaginary blacksmith of Edgware was invented, and his alleged anvil sold by auction.
Whether the air is Handel's own composition at all is a matter of uncertainty; there would be nothing in the least unusual about any composer taking another man's air as a theme for variations, and it has been suggested, with some plausibility, that the tune is that of an old French song.
On August 8, 1718, Handel's sister Dorothea Sophia died of consumption at Halle. She was not more than thirty years of age; the other sister, Johanna, had died in 1709. The sermon preached at Dorothea's funeral on August 11, 1718, has been preserved, and tells us that one of her favourite texts from the Bible, which she was often in the habit of quoting, was, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." Chrysander suggested, and we may well believe, that the setting of these words in Messiah, given to a female voice, owed its inspiration to the memory of Dorothea Sophia. Handel was evidently much attached to her. To attend her funeral was impossible, and it was some months before Handel could visit Halle again; but on February 20, 1719, he wrote a letter to his brother-in-law, thanking him for all the kindness which he had shown to his sister, and promising to come to Halle as soon as his engagements permitted.
Handel's inability to leave London before February 1719 was due to the fact that a new scheme for the promotion of opera in London was on foot. The first idea was probably suggested in the circle of the Duke of Chandos towards the end of 1718. It was the moment of the South Sea Bubble, and speculation had become the universal fashion. To revive the Italian opera a company was formed among members of the nobility; a capital of L50,000 was raised in shares of L100 each, and the King himself contributed L1,000. The new venture was called the Royal Academy of Music, in imitation of the Academie Royale de Musique, under which name the Paris opera was officially known. The French designation was obviously suggested by the Italian "academies," or literary and musical societies of the period; the expression accademia di musica is still occasionally used in Italy to signify a concert. The directors engaged Nicolo Haym and Paolo Rolli as poets to provide libretti; for the music they naturally secured Handel, but also invited Buononcini over from Rome, and Attilio Ariosti from Berlin. Handel was sent at once to Dresden to select singers; on February 21 he is stated to have left London for that purpose, but it is possible that he may actually have started later, for in his letter to his brother-in-law, dated February 20, he says, "I beg you will not judge of my desire to see you by the delay of my departure, for to my great regret I find myself detained here by important business on which I may say my fortune depends, and it has dragged on longer than I expected.... I hope I shall be at the end of it in a month from now."
Handel's exact itinerary is difficult to establish. We know that he went to Duesseldorf, where he engaged the singer Baldassari, but whether this was on the outward journey or later in the year is uncertain. From the letter to Michaelsen we should imagine that he went to Halle as soon as possible; the only authentic document which gives us any date is a letter from Count Flemming, a court functionary at Dresden, to Melusine von Schulenburg, daughter of George I's mistress the Duchess of Kendal, who in 1733 married Lord Chesterfield. Melusine was a pupil of Handel in London. The letter is dated from Dresden, October 6, 1719; the Count seems to have been much offended by Handel's behaviour, and suggests that he was "a little mad" (un peu fol). Count Flemming was evidently vain of his own musicianship, and this made him feel all the more hurt at Handel's obstinate refusal to accept his invitations. The Electoral Prince of Saxony was married about this time to an Austrian Archduchess, and the Elector had invited several of the most famous Italian singers, headed by the composer Lotti, to Dresden to grace the occasion, hoping to make contracts with them for the winter season. Handel's object in Dresden was to tempt these celebrities to London by the offer of English guineas, so that he was naturally obliged to be extremely discreet in his relations with the officials of the court.
He certainly played the harpsichord at court, for in the following February (1720) a sum of 100 ducats was paid to him; this however cannot indicate that he was actually in Dresden at that date, and may easily have been a delayed payment for earlier services. Handel's negotiations with the singers were only moderately successful, for he was unable to secure anyone except Signora Durastanti for the opening of the London opera, even though that was delayed until April 1720. The others remained at Dresden, but it is probable that Handel's offers had not been without their attractions, for the Italian singers at Dresden gave so much trouble to the management that the Elector suddenly dismissed the whole crew in February 1720; none of them, however, appeared in London before the autumn season.
Handel's visit to Halle this year is of peculiar interest because of the attempt made by J. S. Bach to become acquainted with him. Forkel's biography of Bach (1802) is the only authority for this story. Bach in 1719 was in the service of the Prince of Anhalt-Coethen; hearing that Handel was in the neighbourhood, he went over to Halle, a distance of about twenty miles, but found that Handel had already departed for London. The exact date of Handel's return is not known, but as there was a meeting of the shareholders of the opera on November 6, 1719, he may have been in England by that time. He was not himself one of the actual directors of the company; the only professional member of the board was Heidegger. Burney suggests that the affairs of the company were none too prosperous even before the season began; and it is strange that so long a delay took place between the first initiation of the scheme in the winter of 1718 and the first rise of the curtain on April 2, 1720. Handel, at any rate, must have felt his own position to be secure, for it was about this time that he took the house at what was then 57 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, where he resided for the rest of his life. His name appears first in 1725 among the ratepayers of the parish of St. George's, Hanover Square, but not long ago a lead cistern was found in the house, bearing his initials and the date 1721. On what terms he took the house is not known; it is not mentioned in his will.
Buononcini—Cuzzoni, Faustina, and Senesino—death of George I—The Beggar's Opera—collapse of the Academy.
The opening performance of the Royal Academy of Music was undistinguished; it is hard to understand why the noble directors should have begun their season with Numitor, an opera by Porta, a Venetian composer, who is described in the book of words as "Servant to His Grace the Duke of Wharton." The Duke of Wharton was not one of the directors. The company, moreover, was more English than Italian; it included Baldassari, Durastanti, and a second woman called Galerati, together with Anastasia Robinson, who afterwards became Countess of Peterborough, Mrs. Turner Robinson, wife of the organist of Westminster Abbey, Mrs. Dennis, and Mr. Gordon. Numitor ran for five performances; on April 27 it was succeeded by Handel's new opera Radamisto, in which the same singers took part, except that Mrs. Dennis did not appear, and Mr. La Garde sang the part of Farasmane. It is interesting to note that two of the male parts were taken by women—Radamisto (Durastanti) and Tigrane (Galerati). This looks as if the management had found it impossible to secure a sufficient number of Italian castrati, who probably demanded exorbitant fees.
Radamisto fared little better than Numitor; an enormous crowd came to the first night, and many were turned away, but the opera was not performed more than ten times in the season. It was probably above the heads of the audience, for it is one of Handel's finest works for the stage and a great advance on any of his previous operas. The only other opera performed was Narciso, by Domenico Scarlatti, which was even less successful than the others. Chrysander seems to suggest that Scarlatti came to London with the idea of being a rival to Handel, but it is much more likely that Handel himself persuaded the Academy to invite the friend of his youth.
The season ended on June 25. Radamisto was printed, and was published by Handel himself at his own house.
A really serious rival to Handel appeared in the autumn. Lord Burlington had made the acquaintance in Rome of Giovanni Buononcini, and had heard his opera Astarto. Perhaps he had had enough of Handel after three years of his close company in Burlington House; in any case he probably thought himself a better judge of music than Handel. He secured Buononcini for the Academy, and the season opened on November 19 with Astarto. The dedication to the Earl of Burlington is signed by Paolo Rolli, and no other author's name is mentioned; but the libretto was really by Apostolo Zeno (1708). Astarto had ten performances before Christmas, and twenty afterwards; Radamisto was revived again, but Buononcini established himself firmly in the favour of a large party. Although Burney speaks very disparagingly of the music, it is not in the least surprising that the opera attracted the public. In the first place, it had the advantage of a magnificent cast of singers—Senesino, Boschi, Berenstadt, Berselli, Durastanti, Salvai, and Galerati, and this sudden blaze of vocal splendour would in itself have made the success of any opera, especially of one which opened the season. Besides, Buononcini's music was pleasing and, after a far longer stage experience than Handel's, he naturally wrote what singers enjoyed singing. It must further be added that Buononcini himself was a striking personality; he had produced operas at Berlin and Vienna, as well as in various Italian cities, and was a man of the world, accustomed to the society of courts. Besides, Buononcini was a stranger and a novelty; Handel was becoming an established institution—indeed, he was well on the way to becoming an English composer.
The same singers, with the addition of Anastasia Robinson, appeared in the season of 1721-22. A curious experiment was tried in Muzio Scevola, of which the first act was composed by Filippo Mattei, the second by Buononcini and the third by Handel, each act having an overture and concluding chorus. Some biographers have supposed that this was intended to be a trial of strength, and that the contest resulted in the acknowledged triumph of Handel; but Burney is probably right in saying that the collaboration was merely a device to save time in getting the opera ready, and Burney further points out that Buononcini's position remained as strong as ever. It was in fact due to Buononcinci's next two operas, and not to Handel's, that the Academy was able to declare a dividend of seven per cent.
Handel's Floridante (December 9, 1721) had a moderate success only, and against Handel's one opera (except for a few performances of Radamisto at the very beginning of the season) Buononcini had three works to his credit. The following season brought Handel better fortune, and a decline in the popularity of Buononcini. In November and December, Muzio Sceaola and Floridante were revived; on January 12, Handel produced a new opera, Ottone, with a new singer, Francesca Cuzzoni, who eclipsed all the other women singers completely, until after some years she herself was driven into eclipse by her historic rival Faustina Bordoni.
Ottone contains one number at least which is familiar to everyone who knows the name of Handel—the gavotte at the end of the overture. This spirited piece of music won popularity at the outset, and even to-day it is probably the best known melody of Handel, after the "Harmonious Blacksmith." But the real success of Ottone was made by Cuzzoni.
How Cuzzoni came to be engaged at the opera is not clear. Handel cannot possibly have ever heard her sing; it has been suggested that she was engaged by Heidegger. She was about twenty-two, and had made her first appearance at Venice in 1719, after which she sang in various Italian theatres. She had a voice of extraordinary range, beauty, and agility; she was equally accomplished both in florid music and in airs of a sustained and pathetic character, and she was never known to sing out of tune. In appearance she was anything but attractive: she was short, squat, and excessively plain-featured. She was uneducated and ill-mannered, impulsive and quarrelsome. Her arrival in London was delayed for some reason, so the management sent Sandoni, the second harpsichord-player, to meet her, probably at Dover. On the way to London they were married; Sandoni doubtless had an eye to the money which she was to earn.
Her first air in Ottone, "Falsa imagine," fixed her reputation as an expressive and pathetic singer (Burney); she had at first refused to sing it, on which Handel remarked to her, "Madame, je sais que vous etes une veritable diablesse, mais je vous ferai savoir, moi, que je suis Beelzebub, le chef des diables," seized her round and waist, and threatened to throw her out of the window. Handel had similar trouble with Gordon, the English singer who came in for a small part in Flavio, which was given on May 14. Gordon found fault with Handel's method of accompanying, and threatened to jump on the harpsichord.
"Oh," replied Handel, "let me know when you will do that, and I will advertise it; for I am sure more people will come to see you jump than to hear you sing."
Two more operas by Buononcini were given, but his relations with the Academy were not very cordial. He had been taken up by the Marlborough family, and was commissioned to compose the funeral anthem for the burial of the great Duke in June 1722. On May 16, 1723, Mrs. Pendarves informed her sister that the young Duchess had settled L500 a year for life on Buononcini, "provided he will not compose any more for the ungrateful Academy, who do not deserve he should entertain them, since they don't know how to value his works as they ought." The contract, however, seems not to have been carried out by the composer. Mrs. Pendarves evidently took the news from the day's issue of a weekly journal, adding only the name of the Duchess, which the paper had suppressed. What the paper tells us is that the Academy had not engaged Buononcini for the coming season.
Senesino and Cuzzoni had made life impossible for the other singers. Durastanti retired to the Continent; Anastasia Robinson left the stage, and married her old admirer Lord Peterborough. Senesino and Cuzzoni, however, were indispensable to the success of the opera, and probably the ridiculous affectations of the one and the abominable manners of the other were not without their attraction to a public which could enjoy all the pleasure of gossiping about them without having to put up with them at close quarters.
The season of 1723 began in November with Buononcini's Farnace and Handel's Ottone; in January 1724 a new opera, Vespasiano, by Attilio Ariosti, was given, and ran for nine successive nights. Ariosti was never a very troublesome rival to Handel; he was a man of amiable character, and apparently quite content to remain aloof from the party politics of the opera-house. On February 14, Handel produced his Giulio Cesare, one of his finest dramatic works; it has been revived with considerable success in recent years, partly owing to the fact that modern audiences are more familiar with the episode of Caesar and Cleopatra than with the subjects of Handel's other operas. Giulio Cesare had the advantage of a strong cast; Senesino sang the title part, with Berenstadt and Boschi to support him, and the women included Cuzzoni, as well as Durastanti and Mrs. Robinson, who had not yet quitted the opera company.
Another masterpiece of Handel's, Tamerlano, inaugurated the autumn season of 1724 in October; in December appeared Ariosti's Artaserse, in January Giulio Cesare held the stage till the production of another Handel opera, Rodelinda, which came out on February 13, and ran for thirteen nights. Two more operas, by Ariosti and Leonardo Vinci of Naples, completed the season, but it was evidently Handel who scored the greatest triumphs, unless the honours should more properly go to Cuzzoni, as Rodelinda, and her brown silk gown trimmed with silver. All the old ladies, says Burney, were scandalised with its vulgarity and indecorum, "but the young adopted it as a fashion so universally, that it seemed a national uniform for youth and beauty."
Cuzzoni created a further sensation in the summer by giving birth to a daughter. Mrs. Pendarves made much fun of the event. "It is a mighty mortification it was not a son. Sons and heirs ought to be out of fashion when such scrubs shall pretend to be dissatisfied at having a daughter; 'tis pity, indeed, that the noble name and family of the Sandonis should be extinct! The minute she was brought to bed she sang' La speranza,' a song in Otho."
Revivals of Rodelinda and Ottone took place in the following season, and, in March 1726, Handel produced Scipio, in which the famous march was heard for the first time on the rise of the curtain.
But Cuzzoni's throne was soon to be sharply contested. Ever since 1723 the directors of the opera had been trying to secure Faustina Bordoni, and at last, with a promise of L2,500 for the season (Cuzzoni received L2,000), they succeeded. Faustina was born of a patrician family at Venice in 1700; she had been brought up under the protection of Alessandro Marcello, brother of the well-known composer, and had made her debut at Venice at the age of sixteen. She sang mostly at Venice for several years, and in 1718 she appeared there in Pollaroli's Ariodante, along with Cuzzoni herself. She sang at Munich in 1723, and in the summer of 1725 she went to Vienna, where she stayed six months, enjoying an extraordinary success. Nearly forty years afterwards the Empress Maria Theresa recalled with pride how she herself, at the age of seven, had sung in an opera with Faustina. At the end of March 1726 she left Vienna for London, where she made her first appearance, on May 5, in Handel's new opera Alessandro, which had been designed especially to show off both Faustina and Cuzzoni in parts of exactly equal importance and difficulty. The immediate result was to divide London society into two parties: young Lady Burlington and her friends supported Faustina; Cuzzoni's admirers were led by Lady Pembroke. Lady Walpole succeeded in getting both to sing at her house; neither would sing in the presence of the other, but the hostess tactfully managed to draw first one and then the other out of the music-room while her rival enchanted the guests. Mrs. Pendarves also contrived to be on good terms with both. She heard Cuzzoni in November privately, or perhaps at a rehearsal, and writes, "my senses were ravished with harmony." The opera was expected to begin about the middle of December, "but I think Faustina and Madame Sandoni [i.e. Cuzzoni] are not perfectly agreed about their parts." The opening, however, was delayed by the absence of Senesino, who had gone to Italy and did not return until fairly late in December.
It was probably owing to this fact that opera in English was offered at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where Marcantonio Buononcini's Camilla, first given in London in 1706, was revived by a mainly English cast of singers. Mrs. Pendarves went to see it, and her criticisms are significant for the taste of the time. "I can't say I was much pleased with it, I liked it for old acquaintance sake, but there is not many of the songs better than ballads."
Faustina—"the most agreeable creature in the world in company"—dined with Mrs. Pendarves for a small musical party on January 26. On the previous day there was the first rehearsal of Handel's Admeto. It was the moment, says Burney, of Handel's greatest prosperity and English patronage. Admeto exhibited conspicuously what Dr. Burney called Handel's "science "; it was evidently considered to be complicated in style, though at the same time both pathetic and passionate. "Music," says Burney, "was no longer regarded as a mere soother of affliction, or incitement to hilarity; it could now paint the passions in all their various attitudes; and those tones which said nothing intelligible to the heart began to be thought as; insipid as those of 'sounding brass or tinkling cymbals.'" These words of Burney make one realise that Handel's London operas must have affected their audiences almost in the way in which the operas of Wagner startled the audiences of the nineteenth century. Handel himself, like Wagner, was steadily developing his own dramatic powers, and it is important to bear in mind that it was only those marvellous singers of Handel's day, such as Senesino, Cuzzoni, Faustina, and Boschi, who could inspire him to the creation of such music as they only were competent to interpret.
Admeto was received with respect, and although the partisans of the "rival queens" were noisy in their applause, no actual disturbance took place until Admeto was followed by Buononcini's Astyanax on May 6. On the first night of the new opera each side did its best to drown the opposite party's favourite with a chorus of catcalls. The behaviour of the audience became more and more disgraceful as the opera was repeated, until on the last night (June 6), when the Princess of Wales was present, Cuzzoni and Faustina delighted the sporting instincts of the nobility and gentry of England by indulging in a free fight on the stage.
Five days later George I died suddenly at Osnabruck. George II was crowned on October 11, to the music of Handel's Coronation Anthems. The opera season reopened a month later. Apparently the quarrel between Cuzzoni and Faustina had been patched up; probably neither of them wanted to lose their English contracts. They appeared together in Handel's Riccardo Primo, and again in Siroe (February 5, 1728), as well as in Tolomeo (April 30), but the battle seems to have been won by Cuzzoni, who obtained the more important parts. We hear of no more disturbances; the fact was that the audiences were too thin to be noisy.
Mrs. Pendarves, always a devoted supporter of Handel, was pessimistic from the beginning of the season. "I doubt operas will not survive longer than this winter," she wrote on November 25; "they are now at their last gasp; the subscription is expired and nobody will renew it. The directors are always squabbling, and they have so many divisions among themselves that I wonder they have not broke up before; Senesino goes away next winter, and I believe Faustina, so you see harmony is almost out of fashion."Admeto was revived on June 1, 1728; this was Faustina's last appearance, and the last night of the Royal Academy of Music. The opera was announced for June 11, but Faustina declared herself indisposed. The opera was shut up and the company disbanded. Faustina went with Senesino to Paris, and thence to Venice, where Cuzzoni also made her appearance, and continued in the local dialect the campaign of slander against Faustina's alleged immoralities.