I'm dismayed by this thread. The rediscovery and rehabilitation of
Handel's magnificent music theatre is the single most exciting event
in the last thirty years, as far as the stuffy old operatic museum is
concerned. Musically as well as dramatically, Handel's operas have
proved themselves to be right up there with the very greatest - Mozart,
Verdi, Janacek, et. al. - in their ability to move and satisfy us
musically, as well as revealing to us multitudinous aspects of the human
condition. If there's a more masterly operatic tragedy than "Tamerlano",
to take one not quite at random, I haven't heard it.
To "blame" stage directors for what's been (along with the Janacek
explosion) a vital injection of life into a dying beast, is a very
curious piece of false rationalisation. Let me tell you that as a
general rule stage directors in opera do not choose what they're going
to do: they are chosen, often when the planning process is some way
advanced and the musical decisions have been made. They don't even
get to do much of the casting.
Intelligent opera-goers, like the professional musicians and designers,
have not taken to Handel simply because they've been told to. They warm
to such fabulous theatre music, for sure, but they also know that there's
a vacuum to fill as the 19th century warhorses cease to charm and drop
away year by year from the repertoire. Meyerbeer and Gounod are not
coming back any time soon. And as there is as yet so little late-20th
or 21st century music theatre making it into the museum, Handel fills
the gap for something that's novel, fresh and of high quality, untouched
by the dead hand of convention.
Let me also tell you that stage directors do not much like having to
deal with Handel. Unless you've got the 6 or so finest actor-singers on
the planet at your disposal his operas are theatrically very long, very
taxing and all too easy to spoil. Stage directors know about this only
too well, often from bitter experience.
I believe we should rejoice in the marvellous richness of the Handel
revival, not complain about it. Sometimes it helps to open our ears and
minds a bit wider.
Christopher Webber, Blackheath, London, UK
"ZARZUELA!" The Spanish Music Site
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