George Friederic Handel was one of the greatest composers of his age, most famous for his Messiah. He contributed to every genre that existed in his lifetime, both vocal and instrumental. His compositions include 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios, duos, various arias, chamber music, 16 organ concertos and many other sacred works. In his early career, he dedicated much of his expertise to opera, mainly Italian librettos, while in his later career he focused on large-scale vocal works, finding his niche in oratorio.
Handel was born in Halle to a barber-surgeon and a pastor’s daughter. His father disapproved of his love of music and tried to convince his son to study law instead. Handel played clavichord and organ secretly but was eventually allowed to study under Friedtich Zachow, organist at the Liebfrauenkirche in harpsichord, organ and composition.
In 1702, five years after the death of his father, the young Handel was appointed organist of the Calvinist Domkirche, but left Halle the following year to seek out the opera scene across Europe, beginning in Hamburg. Handel composed his first operas Almira and Nero in Hamburg while he was employed as second violinist and harpsichordist at the Hamburg opera house, one of the only opera establishments outside of the courts in that region.