He could go on no longer. George Frederik Handel was staring debtor’s prison in the eye; he was depressed and suffering from various illnesses. Now, faced with crushing verbal, intellectual, financial and even physical opposition, he was ready to quit. That he was the visible pawn in the vicious and hate-filled political and cultural dispute between King George II and his son Frederick, Prince of Wales, added to his woes. Britain’s most famous composer considered leaving Britain forever.
Two encounters altered everything. And changed music forever. A strange, revolutionary text for an oratorio and an invitation to Dublin, Ireland rejuvenated him. Handel threw himself feverishly into the new work, Messiah, completing it in only twenty-four days.
Vicious opponents still sought to destroy him and drive him out. Some in the church rose to prevent Messiah from seeing the light of day; they objected to his hiring a singer disgraced in a sordid court case and objected to sacred music performed in a secular location with secular performers.
Through it all, Handel slowly realized that the music and the story it portrayed was bigger than him, bigger than any performance, bigger even than the King. His struggles to present Messiah to the public mirrored his own internal battles to understand and eventually revolutionize his own beliefs. He was determined to succeed!
A superb sweep through the creation of the magnificent Messiah and the fascinating characters—real and fictional—that influenced the story.
“Barrie Doyle captures the timelessness of Messiah and helps the reader live drama that birthed one of the most celebrated pieces of our time. “
Katherine Whyte, Metropolitan Opera, New York.
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