Music and Vision homepage All Risks Musical - an irreverent guide to the music profession by Alice McVeigh

 

<<  -- 2 --  Wilfrid Mellers    SECOND SIGHT

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So Handel, in the plenitude of his genius, had no problem in alchemizing the abstract symbols of Beauty and Pleasure into riotous flesh and blood, and could accept their ultimately inevitable denial because the energy of his creativity could not be gainsaid. Metaphysical ideas are momently transmogrified into men and (especially) women whose cantillating voices are human physicality rampant. Although the piece isn't an opera and doesn't tell a tale, the argumentations of its protagonists make for dramatic interaction of an exuberance rarely attained.

Of the four competing allegorical figures Beauty and Pleasure are dashingly virtuosic (female) sopranos; Disillusion is an alto who could be either male or female; and Time, the only unequivocally male voice, is a tenor, albeit a fairly flighty one. The structure of the piece is much the same as that of an opera seria: a sequence of 'closed' da capo arias separated by recitatives or ariosi that provide dialectical, if not exactly narrative, links. The lack of a story and of a naturalistic setting means that the substantial work does not offer the variety of mood that we find in Handel's operas; but if this is a limitation, it also ensures that the immediacy of the emotional exchanges achieves, despite the 'philosophical' bias, the maximum in rhetorical panache.

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Copyright © 28 July 2001 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK

 

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