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Page from Rinaldo, autograph copy of the score by George Frideric Handel

The premiere of Rinaldo was on 24 February 1711 at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, London, the first Italian opera to be composed for the London stage, and Handel’s triumphant entry into British musical life after his arrival in London only the previous year.  The Fitzwilliam autograph copy of the score is the only survival of that first performance, and reveals much of Handel’s methods of composing directly into full score, often handing the score over for performance while the ink was still wet on the pages. Handel left all his ‘Musick Books’ to his copyist, Johann Christoph Schmidt. While many passed to King George III and subsequently to the British Library, those that did not were acquired by Viscount Fitzwilliam.