Page:Romain Rolland Handel.djvu/71

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HIS LIFE

63

national art was dead. It would be absurd to say, as some have often done, that he killed English music. There was nothing left to kill. London had not a single composer. On the other hand, she was rich in excellent players. Above all she possessed one of the best troupes of Italian singers which could be found in Europe. Having been presented to the Queen Anne, who loved music, and played the clavier well, Handel was received with open arms by the Director of the Opera, Aaron Hill. He was an extraordinary person, who travelled in the East, wrote a history of the Ottoman Empire, composed tragedies, translated Voltaire, founded the "Beech Oil Company" for extracting the oil from the wood of the beech, mixing it with chemicals and using it for the construction of ships. This orchestral man composed during a meeting the plan of an opera, after Jerusalem Delivered. It was Rinaldo, which was written, poem and music, in fourteen days, and played for the first time on February 24, 1711, at the Haymarket.

Its success was immense. It decided the victory of the Italian Opera in London, and when the singer, Nicolini, who took the rôle of Renaud, left England he carried the score to Naples, where he had it produced in 1718, with the aid of young Leonardo Leo. The Rinaldo marked a turning-point in musical history. The Italian Opera, which had conquered Europe, began to be conquered in its turn by foreign musicians, who had been formed by it—the Italianised Germans. After Handel it was Hasse, then Gluck, and finally Mozart; but Handel