chapter  21
Classical History and Handel’s ‘Alessandro’
WithRichard G. King
Pages 30

The study of eighteenth-century reception of Handel’s operas has produced at least four viable theses. The first of these may be termed the ‘great singers’ approach: Handel’s audience attended the operas primarily to hear star singers and their feats of ‘athletic’ prowess. 1 The second thesis concerns itself with ‘affect’: the operas were conceived and received as a series of situations in each of which a single mood, or ‘affect’, was explored. 2 Third, it has been suggested that Handel’s operas would have been understood as political or social commentary—as metaphors for contemporary events. 3 Finally (and this is so obvious that it is rarely stated), the operas are thought to have been viewed as human drama. 4