Dance in Handel's London Operas
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.
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