Handel's Song

During a rehearsal one day in 1722, the soprano Francesca Cuzzoni, a famously temperamental prima donna, refused to sing Handel's aria "Falsa immagine" (which Handel had written for her London debut). "I would like a fresh air to sing," she declared. "That one doesn't suit me, if you please." Handel, equally temperamental, flew into a rage. "Madam, I know you are a veritable devil," he exclaimed, "but I will make you know that I am Beelzebub, prince of the devils! You want fresh air! I'll give you some fresh air!" The incensed composer then picked her up, dragged her to an open window and threatened to drop her onto the street if she failed to cooperate. In more ways than one, the diva sang Handel's song.

[Cuzzoni's rivalry with fellow soprano Faustina (with whom she once famously fought onstage during a performance of Bononcini's Astinatte) was legendary. To placate both women during the composition of his opera Alessandro, Handel had to give his divas an equal number of arias -- with an equal number of notes!]

[In some parts of Germany, "Defenestration" was once a popular method of executing criminals.]

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