George Frideric Handel: a master of baroque opera

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) composed 42 operas and 25 oratorios including Messiah with its famous Hallelujah chorus. But he is equally well known for his Water Music and Fireworks Music, which he wrote for the British kings George I and George II.

Handel was born in the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and only around 150 kilometres away in Halle an der Saale. Although he moved away from Halle at the age of 18, Handel's legacy is still very much in evidence all around the town.

Each year in June, Halle stages the Handel Festival – venues include the George Frideric Handel Hall, which hosted its first events in 1998. The Handel House, the composer's birthplace, opened as a music museum in 1948. There's also a statue of Handel on the market square, facing west towards London, the city where his career really took flight.

Handel would never have been able to embark on a musical career without the support of the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels, who allowed the seven-year-old boy to play for him on the organ. This is commemorated by a plaque at Augustusburg Palace in Weissenfels.

Handel's early success as an opera composer was in Hamburg. He had not even reached his 20th birthday when his first opera Almira was premiered. His operas were most appreciated in England, however, which explains why he spent almost 50 years of his life there. The English are to some degree justly proud of 'their' George Frideric Handel.

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