Of particular interest is John Rich’s arrangement with Handel. According to Bucchianeri, unlike most people in his position, John Rich wasn’t motivated by ego or money. “Rich aspired to succeed in overcoming the deficiencies in Italian opera.” Therefore, Rich disregarded “a practical business approach on this one project, he may have decided to afford every opportunity to Handel,” who he recognized as England’s “best composer.”
The result of this “opportunity” was Handel’s growth and change as a composer. Bucchianeri relates this adaptation in detail, using the evolution of Handel’s opera Ariodante’ to illustrate Handel’s genius and creativity. For one thing, Ariodante had no magical content, which meant it was neither heroic nor anti-heroic. In other words, Handel was doing something totally different. The difference wasn’t shocking or scandalous. It was simply unique. And, according to Bucchianeri, this distinctiveness eventually found its way into Handel’s oratorios.
What makes Handel’s Path to Covent Garden so much fun to read is the author’s scholarship and the author’s ability to express that same erudition in simple language. In other words, although Bucchianeri does occasionally get technical, Handel’s Path to Covent Garden is a book for the average Joe or Susie. One doesn’t have to have a musical background or a doctorate to enjoy the book. At the same time, the book is just technical enough to appeal to music lovers. For the latter group, the book fills in a gap surrounding Handel’s life and work.
On the Read-O-Meter, which ranges from 1 star (terrible) to 5 stars (delightful), Handel’s Path to Covent Garden comes in at 5 stars.