View Full Version : Need some help from classical music experts

Nov 7th, 2007, 06:35 AM
Hopefully someone on here has an extensive music history background and will be able to help me out on this one.

I'm trying to research this story about George Handel grabbing a red-haired soprano and hanging her outside a window in Dublin before the debut performance of Messiah, but so far I'm coming up with nothing. If anyone happens to know to name of the soloist, or can help lead me in the right direction it'd be greatly appreciated! Thanks! :)

Sally Struthers
Nov 7th, 2007, 06:45 AM
after some google searching:

Not Messiah, but 20 years earlier. Francesca Cuzzoni, disappointed
by the small scale of her first aria ("Falsa imagine") in the first
opera Handel composed for her as prima donna (_Ottone_), refused to
sing it in rehearsal. Handel threatened to throw her out the window,
saying, 'Madame, je sais que vous etes une veritable diablesse, mais
je vous ferai savoir, moi, que je suis Beelzebub, le chef des diables!'
(Madam, you may be a veritable demon, but I'll have you know that I
am Beelzebub, the chief of the devils.)


While many of today’s divas have been threatened with lawsuits, paparazzi, or {gasp} bad press; Cuzzoni was actually manhandled and threatened to be tossed out a window, by none other than George Friedrich Handel, himself. According to legend (and some say history) Cuzzoni came to work in London for Handel in 1722 at the Royal Academy of Music, and made her premier in his opera “Ottone”. The problem occurred when Cuzzoni refused to sing the aria False Immagine that Handel had written for her stating that it was “too simple.”

It was at this point that Handel lost his temper and stated, “Madam, I know you are a veritable devil, but I would have you know that I am Beelzebub, chief of the Devils.” And grabbing her by the waist held her up to the window and threatened to throw her out unless she sang as she was supposed to. Since Madame Cuzzoni went on to sing many more operas with Mssr. Handel, we will assume that she acquiesced! We will also assume that this incident was probably not the first test of wills that the composer and the soprano had, considering the severity of the argument.

Nov 7th, 2007, 04:30 PM
No wonder I couldn't find anything, I thought it was The Messiah. Thanks Sally! :D