Though Saxon by birth, Handel is often claimed by the English as one of their own. But during his early 20s, before England was even a glint in his eye, he spent a spell of three-and-a-half years, from summer 1706 to early 1710, travelling the patchwork of states we now know as Italy. He certainly chose an 'interesting' time to go; the War of the Spanish Succession was in full swing, and its reverberations were felt the length and breadth of the Italian peninsula. For most of the period he was based in Rome, but he also visited Florence, Naples and Venice, fulfilling major commissions in each city. All this week, Donald Macleod charts the composer's Italian progress, with the help of novelist, biographer and avid Handelian, Jonathan Keates.
Today's programme focuses on a single work - Handel's first operatic smash hit, and a coals-to-Newcastle venture if ever there was one - Agrippina, written for the leading house in the birthplace of opera, Venice.