Handel, who wrote music for royal fireworks and water procession, had the most singular of creative stories with his work Alceste. Composed as incidental music for a play by Toby Smollett which was never performed and is now lost, Alceste is the only occurrence of Handel’s having composed theatrical music of this sort. It may be that the scale and power of Handel’s own music was the main factor in the abandonment of the production. At any rate, Handel retained the score, reusing some of it for other works.
The movement titles are retained, but can only suggest the theatrical activity that they were intended to enlarge upon. The aria Gentle Morpheus’s Stately Beauty ranks among Handel’s loveliest work, though the entire score is replete with Handel’s magnificent gifts as a composer and his mature artistry.