George Frideric Handel, an 18th century composer, who wrote the timeless holiday classic "The Messiah" and established a foundation for a new business approach to opera. Not only was Handel a musical genius but he was also an entrepreneur and savvy investor. His famous opera piece has become a traditional holiday performance drawing in crowds all around the world. As Paul Solman reports, "'The Messiah' is a sort of savior of cash-strapped classical music.
As a young man in London, Handel only had two viable options for employment; work for the church or for the nobility. Handel had other aspirations and after learning that Opera was the road to financial independence, he began composing. His first opera was "Rinaldo", written in 1711 and was a huge success and in today's currency conversion would have earned him well over a million dollars. Unfortunately, he would have to pay production cost which includes the set, costumes and the orchestral musicians. To cut cost and increase his profit, Handel decided to change the type of opera to an oratorio which required no sets, no costumes and cheaper singers. Handel began exclusively using English singers and his profits skyrocketed.
Handel wasn't only involved in the opera business, he was a popular investor and despite the variance in his investments, he was exceptionally successful and left a multimillion dollar fortune that still supports charities around the world.
"It's become a holiday piece, hasn't it? You know, every major city, in, fact village, from small town in the states; you all do "Messiah," just as the same as in England. Everybody does it." Harry Christophers, artistic director, Handel and Haydn Society
"Yes. He was willing and eager to take a risk, and won early on. And then, when everything fell apart, and the rebuilding process begins, he doesn't hesitate a minute to reinvest in the market, but he uses a more conservative strategy by going for bonds, rather than for stock. And he does that for the rest of his life." Ellen Harris, MIT
1. What is an opera?
2. Can you name any popular holiday songs?
3. What is a financial portfolio?
1. Have you or your parents made any investments recently? If so, what where they and how did they choose what to invest in?
2. Composing operas was a very lucrative job in the 18th century, what type of musical genres do you enjoy? Can you name any composers or songs that are your favorites?