Historian claims Handel was gay

BY Advocate.com Editors

October 23 2001 12:00 AM ET

A forthcoming book by an acknowledged expert on the composer's work says that the never-married George Frederick Handel was a homosexual, according to The Sunday [London] Telegraph. MIT music professor Ellen Harris's Handel as Orpheus: Voice and Desire in the Chamber Cantatas (which Harvard University Press will publish in February) claims that there is "clear homosexual subtext" in his operatic works. "The cantatas are clearly homosexual," says Harris. "Many of the cantatas avoid identifying the gender of the beloved--for instance they are identified simply as 'the beautiful eyes' or 'little lips' in a way that is deliberately ambiguous. Also they were designed to be sung by both men and women--both castrato and soprano singers." Harris goes on to mention that three of Handel's major patrons, although married, were thought to have had sexual relationships with other men themselves. Jacqueline Riding, director of the new Handel House Museum in London, responded, "Very little is known about Handel's private life. None of his friends wrote much about him, and apart from the fact that he ate and drank too much and had a bad temper, we don't know much about his feelings."

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