The holiday season wouldn’t be marked without a rousing rendition of Handel’s Messiah. But was that its original intent? Take a minute to get the scoop!
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In the 1730s, the emotional and financial toll of producing operas, as well as changing audience tastes, contributed to Handel's growing interest in sacred oratorios—which required neither elaborate scenery nor foreign stars—including, eventually, Messiah. "With oratorios, Handel could be more his own master," says Keates.
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The holiday season wouldn’t be marked without a rousing rendition of Handel’s Messiah.
In fact it only took him 24 days to create the piece. He also originally conceived this as a work for Easter.
The premiere of Messiah took place in Dublin, Ireland,, in April 1742.
The audience swelled to a record 700 people, and it's said that ladies were asked to wear dresses "without Hoops" in order to make for more. Handel certainly had superstar status at that time. He called upon a humble 30 singers and a similar-sized orchestra.
Yet, over the years, the numbers have ever increased. At a festival in Westminster Abbey marking the 25th anniversary of the composer’s death in 1784, there was a 300-strong choir and orchestra.
The Handel Festivals staged at the Crystal Palace from the 1850s drew on 4,000 singers and an orchestra of 500 musicians. Wow!
The Messiah has not lacked for popularity over time, with its message of universal joy and optimism.