Handel's Atalanta was first performed on 12 May 1736. Composed one year earlier, it came to form part of a festive period immediately following the wedding of Frederick, Prince of Wales (April 27), the eldest son of King George II, to Princess Augusta of Saxony-Coburg-Gotha. The same season had begun on May 5 with a revival of Ariodante, now featuring the Italian castrato Gioacchino Conti ("Ghiziello"). Conti's range, which extended to c3, was exceptionally high and Handel exploited its capabilities. He won the great praise of Lord Shaftesbury, who immediately called him "one of the best Performers in this Kingdom". By the day before Atalanta opened Shaftsbury had come to rank him above Farinelli, the best known castrato of the time, for his greater agility and pitch control.
The original text of this pastorale, by Belisario Valeriani, was entitled La caccia in Etolia when it was written. Its first setting, by Fortunato Chelleri, was performed in Ferrara, 1715). The libretto formed the basis of revivals and new settings given in Modena (1716), Ravenna (1726), Florence (1727), and Vienna (1733).
Handel's autograph for Atalanta is in the British Library, with further material in the Manchester Public Library.