What you'll learn

  • Get to know some wonderful music

  • Identify genres and subgenres of 18th-century opera and oratorio

  • Understand text-music relationships in the Baroque period

  • Distinguish basic aspects of musical texture and musical form

  • Appreciate cultural context and performance circumstances of Handel’s Messiah

Course description

While Italian opera set the standard in the Baroque era, German composer George Frederic Handel quickly gained popularity for his oratorios, which put operatic techniques to work in the service of sacred music. Handel’s Messiah premiered in Dublin on April 13, 1742, and remains popular to this day. Harvard’s Thomas Forrest Kelly (Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music) guides learners through Messiah’s musical highlights while detailing Handel’s composition process, the preparations and rehearsals, and the premiere performance.

Learners in this module of First Nights need not have any prior musical experience. In this unit, you will learn the basics of musical form and analysis, the genres and styles used in Messiah, the circumstances of its first performance, and its subsequent history.


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