In 1706, then aged 22, Handel began a trip to Italy and was welcomed in Rome where opera was banned, deemed decadent by the church. It was in this context that he chose to compose three oratorios that would cement his reputation in Rome: "Il Trionfo del tempo e del Disinganno", "Dixit Dominus", and "La Resurrezione".
"Dixit Dominus, Vespro per la Madonna del Carmelo", presented for the first time in 1707, is a major composition in the history of the composer. This is one of his first compositions for choir, and a breathtaking work that touched the religious authorities so deeply that they offered to convert him to Catholicism, which he politely declined. The structure of the work, which alternates and combines choruses and arias, underlines the emotional content of the psalm, and makes it a kind of sacred cantata in eight parts.
Born in the 13th century, the Order of Mount Carmel had a certain devotion to the Virgin Mary. Handel drew on their psalms, and most likely put them to music for the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Carmel in Rome, in the church of Santa Maria di Monte Santo.
Our "Vespers for the Blessed Virgin" is a reconstitution, and an invitation to rediscover the famous "Dixit Dominus", opening the ceremony and inviting other major composers to complete this liturgy with less famous but still sublime works, like "Crucifixus for 16 voices" by Caldara.