Music Composers

Georg Friedrich Handel-Part 7

Handel's Earliest Opera

Within little more than a week after the termination of this quarrel Handel presented to the world his own opera - the first - Almira, the role of the tenor being performed by Mattheson. The German opera of this period, though based upon Italian models, had shown signs of a certain individuality. Italian opera owed its origin to a series of reunions instituted by enthusiastic music lovers at the house of Giovanne Bardi, Count of Vernio, for the discussion of matters connected with the music of ancient Greece and Rome. The result was the development of the Dramma per Musica through Jacopo Peri (Euridice, 1600), Monteverde (Arianna and Orfeo, 1608). The music of these early works was entirely declamatory and was, one may say, the precursor of the Lyric Drama restored later by Wagner. Cavalli, Cesti and Allesandro Scarlatti relieved the monotony of the continuous recitative with arias; later composers introduced concerted pieces and finali, thus developing the true opera perfected by Cimarosa and Mozart. German composers first imported dramatic music from Italy and then produced it for themselves.

When Handel produced Almira the lyric drama was in a transitional condition. In Hamburg opera was performed in a mixture of German and Italian. The same was the case in France and England. Almira was a work of this class. Its libretto contained fifteen Italian airs and forty-four German songs translated by Faustking from an Italian original. Many of its beautiful inspirations were used again by Handel in later works; among them a Sarabande in F played in the third act, which reappeared in the guise of the delightful Lascia ch'io piango in his opera Rinaldo. that the composer was very fond of it is shown by the fact that he used it again for a third time in his Italian oratorio, Il trionfo del tempe e della verita.


The Etude Magazine June 1920






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