The wild world of Baroque opera
Saturday afternoon at 1:00 on WFCR, the Metropolitan Opera broadcast season begins with something different, something unexpected. It's not Verdi, Wagner or Puccini. Not Faust, Carmen or Lucia. Not even Mozart. It's -- Baroque! Specifically, it's Handel's Rodelinda, conducted by noted Baroque maestro Harry Bicket, and featuring the spectacular trio of soprano Renée Fleming, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and countertenor Andreas Scholl. A countertenor at the Met? What's this world coming to?
It's coming to appreciate the glories of Baroque opera, especially Handel's, that's what. And why not, with such glorious melodies and complex, beautifully-etched characters, and with such great singers around today to bring the music to life. So tune in Saturday to be transported to the "the refined and elegant age to which the music belongs," in the words of the late musicologist Stanley Sadie.
Or was it so refined and elegant? Anything but, according to a recent post by blogger and critic Greg Sandow, who replies:
to call that time a refined age you have to ignore public executions, frequent, bloody wars, bloody duels, aristocrats who rarely bathed, streets covered in horse [excrement], sewage in the gutters, and much, much more. The formal manners of the royal courts (which might seem refined to us) hid — or often were weapons in — truly vicious battles for power and status.
And that's just what happened off -stage. Do check out his description of a typical night at the opera. Whew!