Works: L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
May 06, 2011
LA Opera presents a joyous Mark Morris masterpiece
By: David Gregson for Opera West
Not to be missed. A joyous, deeply moving experience.
Not as a dance work but as a musical composition, George Frideric Handel's “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato,” has long been a favorite work of mine. However, I must confess the ""Moderato" sections only became familiar to me after the release of John Nelson's marvelous CD recording on the Virgin Label. Before that I had owned an LP of the piece with "Il Moderato" omitted. I still have it -- and in fact, it's right here before me now: David Willcocks conducting the Philomusica of London with soloists the likes of Helen Watts and Peter Pears (London Records' Editions de L'Oiseau Lyre).
Handel's conception, a rather unusual one in fact, was to make a sort of dramatic ode out of John Milton's famous pastoral poem, "L'Allegro ed Il Penseroso" -- and to add a third non-Miltonic section "moderating" the two contrasting classical "humors" of cheerfulness and melancholy. His librettist, Charles Jennens, wrote the additional (and not-as good) poems, and he also arranged the pieces for musical setting. Sometimes, as on my long out-of-print LP recording, the non-Miltonic parts are omitted.
The brilliant American choreographer Mark Morris was drawn to the full Handel composition, and in 1988, he used it as the basis for one of his most inspired dance creations. It is almost incomparably wonderful to see truly "live" on stage with his own brilliant company of dancers. Seeing this work or almost any other great performance of dance on a video recording is absolutely not comparable. Opera can survive roaming camera work and close ups, but dance really cannot.