As a Londoner born and bred, I always feel a particular connection with Handel as I walk past his house in Brook Street, perhaps passing St George’s Hanover Square where he worshipped; and I love to visit the Royal Opera House which stands on the site of the Covent Garden Theatre, scene of so many Handel premières.
The one I would most like to have attended was Samson in 1743. It was the largest of his biblical oratorios, written hard on the heels of Messiah, and it was a triumphant success, crowned by the inspired last-minute addition of a new and dazzling soprano aria, Let the bright seraphim, composed for the renowned Italian singer Christina Avoglio who happened to be in London that season and was willing to make a cameo appearance in Handel’s new oratorio. The aria leads into a jubilant concluding chorus, Let their celestial concerts all unite – also an afterthought. I wouldn’t mind betting that the aria stopped the show, and then the chorus, in Elgar’s apposite words, ‘knocked ’em flat’.
The printed music for Let their celestial concerts all unite from Samson is included in the Oxford Choral Classics volume Sacred Choruses.