Anti-Semitism in Handel’s ‘Messiah’?

A R T L▼R K

9780300194586On the 13th of April 1742, the famous English oratorio Messiah by George Frederic Handel was first performed in the New Music Hall on Fishamble Street in Dublin. Around seven hundred people attended its premiere, which was a charitable event organised in support of the Mercer’s Hospital in Stephen’s Street, and of the Charitable Infirmary on the Inns Quay. Prior to the premiere the Dublin Journal published an announcement specifying the preferable women’s dress code, “that the Ladies who honour this Performance with their Presence would be pleased to come without Hoops, as it will greatly increase the Charity, by making Room for more company.” (Calvin Stapert, Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People). In another announcement a similar request was expressed in regards to gentlemen’s attire ““The Gentlemen are desired to come without their Swords,” again for the purpose of making more room to “increase the Charity.””

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