In the eighteenth century, music performance was always a live event, and singers could build both their reputation and that of the composer through their performances. Composers depended on the competence of the performers – in particular the soloists – to interpret their music and present it to the public.
Handel often composed with specific performers in mind, and wrote music to suit individual voices and the skills of the singer. This display of portraits from the Gerald Coke Handel Collection brought together women for whom Handel composed, as well as those who continued to interpret and perform his music during and after his lifetime. It explored how these female singers established the composer’s music and created the legacy of his music as we know it today.