Dance in Handel's London Operas

February 2013
14 black and white, 57 line illustrations
280 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580464208
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS028000, PER003000, MUS020000

Dance in Handel's London Operas

Sarah McCleave

Examines the pivotal role of dance in the Italian operas of Handel, perhaps the greatest opera composer between Monteverdi and Mozart.
George Frideric Handel set himself apart from his contemporaries by employing choreographed instrumental music to complement and reinforce the emotional impact of his operas. Of his fifty-three operas, no fewer than fourteen -- including ten written for the London stage -- feature dances. Dance in Handel's London Operas explores the relationship between music, drama, and dance in these London works, dispelling the notion that dance was a largely peripheral element in Italian-language operas prior to those of Gluck.
Taking a chronological approach, Sarah McCleave examines operas written throughout various periods in Handel's life, beginning with his early London operas, including his time at the Royal Music Academy and the "Sallé" operas of the 1730s, and concluding with his unstaged dramatic opera Alceste (1750). In considering the various influences on Handel (particularly the London stage), McCleave blends analysis of information from eighteenth-century treatises with that found in more modern studies, offering an informed and imaginative understanding of the role dance played in the work of this major figure -- one who remained responsive throughout his career to the vital and innovative theatrical environment in which he worked.

Sarah McCleave is a lecturer at The School of Creative Arts at Queen's University Belfast.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Genres of Opera, Styles of Dance
Handel's Operas of the 1710s
The Royal Academy Operas
Handel and the London Theater, 1729-35
Theatrical Dance and Opera in London, 1735-55
The French Connection
Pastoral versus Heroic: Handel's Operas with Dance
Epilogue: Opera Dance in a Changing Marketplace
Appendix 1: A Study of Handel's Compositional Process
Appendix 2: Theater and Dance Chronology


Places Handel's creative decisions in the wider context of European dance traditions and dance on the London stage, frequently referring to contemporary documents. Answers questions such as how the dissemination of French dances through choreographies or through chamber music might have been reflected in the dance types Handel used in his operas, hence addressing how far the types of dances he employed related to public taste. EARLY MUSIC

Impeccably researched. An exemplary model of how to breathe new life into operas that have been studied as a [purely] vocal repertory. [McCleave's] findings will no doubt be of consequence for singers and opera directors looking to revive Handel's operas. Offers an extraordinary amount of useful information. A valuable resource for any dance, theater, or music historian of eighteenth-century England. MUSIC LIBRARY ASSOCIATION NOTES

The first full-length study of the subject, likely to transform the traditional view. Weaves a rich tapestry from relationships between Handel's output and the presence of dance in the contemporary theatrical scene. . . .The book explore[s] virtually every aspect of dance in Handel's operas. Packed with fresh information. The amount of fresh, detailed information greatly enhances our view of dance and spectacle [in this repertoire]. Anyone interested in Handel's dances -- not only scholars but also performers, conductors, and directors -- will find [this book] essential. An impressive and much-needed piece of scholarship, this book deserves a warm welcome. JOURNAL OF MUSICOLOGICAL RESEARCH

A data-rich study dealing in uncertainties and ambiguities. . . . Instructive and often revelatory. MUSICAL TIMES

Dance was a significant area of overlap between opera and other theatrical genres staged in London during the first half of the eighteenth century, and an integral part of the theatrical experience. In Dance in Handel's London Operas, Sarah McCleave shows Handel as the consummate theatrical professional, illuminating his work with and for dancers. --Kathryn Lowerre, author of Music and Musicians on the London Stage, 1695-1705

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