From 1706 until his death in 1759, George Frideric Handel lived and worked in Italy and London. The scope, variety, and sheer amount of great music that flowed from his pen during his lifetime continue to delight us to this day.
Whether it is the Water Music he wrote for his king, the brilliant Italian operas he wrote for the superstars of his time, or his matchless and immortal English oratorios (a genre he basically invented), Handel's name and fame made him the first truly internationally successful composer.
Over the course of four programs, Evans Mirageas will explore the amazing variety of Handel's musical genius set primarily against the backdrop of London, his hometown for most of his career and, in his time, the music capital of the world.
Tuesday, November 30, 2021; 9 p.m.
Handel's genius did not simply appear out of nowhere. His most productive apprentice years as a composer were spent in Rome, an incredible hotbed of creativity at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries. Handel became the protégé of several powerful Romans—many of them cardinals of the Church—and perfected his amazing ability to write for voices there. Mirageas will share some of Handel's earliest sacred, dramatic, and instrumental works, written in the white heat of youthful discovery—all of this preparatory work for his "assault" on London.
Tuesday, December 7, 2021; 9 p.m.
Not long after he took up residence in London, Handel started writing opera for the King's Theatre on Haymarket. He quickly won the favor of the fickle English public with virtuoso writing for the operatic superstars of his day: sopranos and male sopranos (or castrati). Starting with Rinaldo in 1711, Handel would write operas for nearly three decades. He befriended and wrote works specifically for some of the period's legendary singers: the rival sopranos Cuzzoni and Bordoni and the brilliant castrato Senesino, among others. Mirageas will cover the astonishing variety of Handel's arias and duets with performances and stories from the great Handelians of our own day, including soprano Renée Fleming, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, the late mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, and countertenor Andreas Scholl.
December 14, 2021; 9 p.m.
During his time in London, Handel served three successive English monarchs: Queen Anne and two kings named George! For George I, he wrote his celebrated Water Music, and he composed music in honor of the coronation of George II. Along the way, Handel's operas (and eventually oratorios) caught the ear of his kings and other members of the royal family. Mirageas will trace Handel's singularly successful dealings with royalty and enjoy the great music born of these associations with stories related by conductor Nicholas McGegan, a celebrated interpreter of Handel's music today.
Tuesday, December 21, 2021; 9 p.m.
A virtue born of necessity. That's how Handel essentially invented the form of music we know and love today as the English oratorio, a sacred music-drama. When the English public began to turn away from Handel's form of Italian opera and the religious views of those in power placed severe strictures on performing operas during the Lenten season, Handel wrote oratorios, often using the same solo singers who peopled his virtuoso operas. These religious dramas also featured choruses, something mostly absent from Handel's operas. The most spectacular fruit of this period is Messiah, written in the short space of three weeks in August 1741, in the middle of a devastating London heat wave. From its premiere in Dublin the following April, it has gone on to become the most beloved oratorio of all; it has been performed in versions ranging from the most intimate settings to grand Messiah festivals using choruses and orchestras of several hundred. Mirageas explores the Messiah phenomenon and the reasons it has become Handel's most celebrated work and one of the iconic pieces of classical music.