Handel's Messiah - episode 17

Sorrow becomes joy

Susannah Cibber arrives in Dublin, and her performance is a big disaster – but then the viceroy asserts himself! When exactly Handel and Cibber first meet in Dublin, and at what point Handel decides to let her sing one of the most important parts of Messiah is unknown. Susannah Cibber had had singing parts since the beginning of her career, but she became famous for her acting. Her voice was described as ‘sweet’ and ‘exceptionally expressive’. However, it was untrained. And what was worse was that she could not read music. Even though Handel was known for not accepting any singers who were not able to sight-read, he made an exception for Susannah Cibber. Hour by hour, day by day he would go through the oratorio with Susannah Cibber until, finally, she knew her part by heart.

Music: Dunedin Consort ‘Handel’s Original Dublin Version 1742’