The Handel Gallery’s permanent display exploring Handel’s Messiah has been refreshed and will present items relating to Theodora, the composer’s penultimate oratorio.
A new text panel in the Handel Gallery outlines the history of the composition and first performances of Messiah, and their relation to the Foundling Hospital. The score on display was bequeathed to the Foundling Hospital in the codicil to his Will of 1757, which is displayed alongside it with a ticket from the 1773 performance at the Foundling Hospital. A letter from the librettist, Charles Jennens, tells a friend that he has set the text and hopes to persuade Handel to set it to music, an interesting revelation in the story of how this famous work came into being. The display also includes the terracotta modello of Handel by Roubiliac, one of his working models for the monument in Westminster Abbey, which has returned from exhibition loan to Boughton House.
The Gallery will also host a series of small displays in the coming months. The first will present items relating to Handel’s penultimate oratorio Theodora, to coincide with a performance of selections from the work by students from the Royal Northern College of Music on Sunday 19 February. Like Messiah, the work has a Christian theme, rather than drawing from Old Testament or classical histories as with his other oratorios. Composed shortly after the first benefit concert of Messiah for the Foundling Hospital in 1749, Theodora was not a success, possibly due to earthquakes in London which had caused many of the upper classes to leave town! Some individual songs went on to become popular and were published separately.