The Princeton University Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of an eighteenth-century scribal score (297 pages) of George Frideric Handel’s three-act opera Berenice, copied by a contemporary Handel copyist (“S2”) from the composer’s autograph manuscript. The scribal score is complete but for Berenice’s aria “Avvertite mie pupille” and opens with the title page reading, “Berenice Opera Composta per il Sgr G:F: Handel / Comminciato Decembr: 15 1736.” Handel’s opera seria concerning the life and loves of Queen Cleopatra Berenice of Egypt around 80 B.C.E. was based on an Italian libretto by the Florentine poet Antonio Salvi, who entitled it Berenice, regina d’Egitto. The opera premiered at London’s Covent Garden in May 1737. The present score was in the library of Charles Jennens and bears his shelfmark. Jennens was Handel’s patron and is perhaps best known as the librettist of Messiah. The score is for voices and orchestra (strings, oboes, bassoons, and continuo), with figured bass throughout and a few additional figures added by Charles Jennens. The complete manuscript can be viewed online here.
The manuscript will complement the Library’s James S. Hall Collection of George Frideric Handel, in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Among eighteenth-century scribal scores in the manuscripts portion of the Hall-Handel Collection (C0640) are those for the oratorios Belshazzar, John Balus, and Joseph, copied in about 1745 by John Christopher Smith (the elder) for Frederick, Prince of Wales.
The Berenice manuscript, along with several manuscripts and early printed editions from the Hall-Handel Collection will be exhibited in the Library’s Eighteenth-Century Window. The exhibition is free and open to the public, and is on view from February 21 through March 4, weekdays from 9 am to 4:45 pm, and weekends from noon to 5 pm. Additionally, Princeton University will host the American Handel Society’s biennial festival from February 21 through February 23. The 2013 festival will feature three concerts of Handel’s works performed by musicians affiliated with the University, two conference events, and the exhibition in Firestone Library. For more information about the festival, please click here.