Doing some research for a series of classes I’m giving on Handel’s Messiah, I came across this fun fact on Wikipedia:
In Italy Handel met librettist Antonio Salvi, with whom he later collaborated. Handel left for Rome and, since opera was (temporarily) banned in the Papal States, composed sacred music for the Roman clergy. His famous Dixit Dominus (1707) is from this era. He also composed cantatas in pastoral style for musical gatherings in the palaces of cardinals Pietro Ottoboni, Benedetto Pamphili and Carlo Colonna. Two oratorios, La resurrezione and Il trionfo del tempo, were produced in a private setting for Ruspoli and Ottoboni in 1709 and 1710, respectively. Rodrigo, his first all-Italian opera, was produced in the Cocomero theatre in Florence in 1707.Agrippina was first produced in 1709 at Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, owned by the Grimanis. The opera, with a libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani, and according to Mainwaring it ran for 27 nights successively. The audience, thunderstruck with the grandeur and sublimity of his style, applauded for Il caro Sassone(“the dear Saxon”—referring to Handel’s German origins). [Bold emphasis mine.]
Catholic connections of the Protestant George Frideric Handel jumped out at me as a major point of interest.
Here is an excellent performance of the Dixit Dominus for your edification and enjoyment, followed by more from Wikipedia, this time from the article on the Dixit Dominus itself. This recording is graced with the amazing voice of Philippe Jaroussky, a French countertenor, who may be seen here singing a Verdi aria. (I skipped past the opening monologue of an immodest hostess.)
Dixit Dominus is a psalm setting by George Frideric Handel (catalogued as HWV 232). It uses the Latin text of Psalm 110 (Vulgate 109), which begins with the words Dixit Dominus (“The Lord Said”). [See the Latin and English of that Psalm here.]
The work was completed in April 1707 while Handel was living in Italy. It is Handel’s earliest surviving autograph. The work was written in the baroque style and is scored for five vocal soloists (SSATB), chorus, strings and continuo. It is most likely that the work was first performed on 16 July 1707 in the Church of Santa Maria in Montesanto, under the patronage of the Colonna family.
The score was published in 1867. A typical performance lasts a little over 30 minutes.