The directors engaged Nicolo Haym and Paolo Rolli as poets to provide libretti; for the music they naturally secured Handel, but also invited Buononcini over from Rome, and Attilio Ariosti from Berlin.
He came to England in 1720 with Ariosti, also a meritorious composer. Factions soon began to form themselves around Handel and Bononcini, and a bitter struggle ensued between these old foes. The same drama repeated itself, with new actors, about thirty years afterward, in Paris.
The season of 1723 began in November with Buononcini's Farnace and Handel's Ottone; in January 1724 a new opera, Vespasiano, by Attilio Ariosti, was given, and ran for nine successive nights. Ariosti was never a very troublesome rival to Handel; he was a man of amiable character, and apparently quite content to remain aloof from the party politics of the opera-house.
The next episode in George Frederic's career has considerably puzzled his biographers. Mainwaring asserts that in 1698 he went to Berlin, where he was presented to the Electress Sophia Charlotte and made the acquaintance of Ariosti and Giovanni Battista Buononcini, two famous Italian opera composers whom he was to encounter again, in London, many years later.
Two more operas, by Ariosti and Leonardo Vinci of Naples, completed the season, but it was evidently Handel who scored the greatest triumphs, unless the honours should more properly go to Cuzzoni, as Rodelinda, and her brown silk gown trimmed with silver.
After three years' hard work his teacher told him he must seek another master, as he could teach him nothing more. So the boy was sent to Berlin, to continue his studies. Two of the prominent musicians there were Ariosti and Buononcini; the former received the boy kindly and gave him great encouragement; the other took a dislike to the little fellow, and tried to injure him.
When I complained of the sacrilege, he said: "Yes, it is true. But then, you must know, the Ariosti were not one of the noble families of Ferrara." The castle of the Dukes of Ferrara, about which cluster so many sad and splendid memories, stands in the heart of the city.
But it is known that Ariosti did not arrive in Berlin until the spring of 1697, and Buononcini not until 1702. If, on the other hand, Mainwaring is right in saying that young Handel went to Berlin with a view to obtaining a musical post there, it is hardly likely that he should have made the journey at ten years of age, and while his father was still living.
Bononcini and Attilio Ariosti, his old acquaintances in Berlin, were also attracted by this new operatic venture to London, and their arrival was followed by a competition of a very novel character. The libretto of a new opera, "Muzio Scævola," was divided between the three composers. Attilio was to put the first act to music, Bononcini the second, and Handel the third.
There he met two Italian composers of established reputation, Bononcini and Attilio Ariosti, both of whom he was to encounter in after-life, though under very different circumstances, in London.