Time, Beauty, Pleasure, Disappointment & SpatsFriday, August 08, 2014
|Alexander Weimann & Matthew White|
Of last night’s Early Music Vancouver extravaganza performance of Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo (1707) I could write of the superb sound of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and its director (and stand-up organist) Alexander Weimann. Or I could salivate about the two sopranos Amanda Forsythe (to my disappointment she covered up her beauty mark on the right hand side of her mouth) and that passionate Magyar Krisztina Szabó. Or (and I will) write about tenor Colin Balzer with his diction and “I am here” presence and of countertenor Reginald L. Mobley of whom I can one describe his male’s voice as exquisite without any reservation.
Sitting dead centre on the front row I saw everything except what was blocked by what I call José Verstappen’s baroque organ (the former Artistic Director of Early Music Vancouver fought long and hard to have it made and I have not forgotten).
|Which one? Time, Beauty, Truth or Pleasure.|
It didn’t take long before my following of Benedetto Pamphili’s libretto transported me away from the Chan. I was suddenly in a spacious room in which two women and two men (most unlikely had it been in ancient Greece) were reclined on divans and drank Massalian wine. They were served by Illyrian slaves. The four were discussing life through their individual lives as Platonic Essences of Beauty, Pleasure, Time and Truth (an essence close to our idea of the disappointment that reality and experience bring to our dreams).
The libretto, in spite of a slight flowery (and why not it's baroque) structure sounded purely existential and very modern.
|Reginald L. Mobley, Colin Balzer, Kristina Szabó & Amanda Forsythe|
Our crafty Cardinal did not bring his religion and God until the very end of the libretto in a “this is my reality now” aria confession by Amanda Forsythe:
You, high minister of Heaven,
Shall no longer see
Faithless will or vain desires.
And as I lived ungrateful to God
you, custodian of my heart
will offer him a heart made new.
This sudden mention of God brought back to me Pierre Teilhards de Chardin (a crafty French Jesuit) who does not mention the Creator until the end of his monumental The Phenomenon of Man.
Up front I was able to see how the happy-go-lucky and beautiful Beauty (Amanda Forsythe) slowly but surely aged before my eyes as the initial image of herself in front of a mirror begins to deteriorate in spite of false indications to the contrary by a dishonest Pleasure (Kristina Szabó). I expected at any moment towards the end that the two would indulge in a huge cat fight. I was wonderful to not on Beauty’s face her transformation from the despair of knowing her youth would fade to finally realizing there is more to life than skin.
She realizes this through the doubts that come her way via Time (Colin Balzer) and Truth (Dissingano or disappointment is a better word). The back and forth banter between the women and the men of Handel’s oratorio seemed to me to be a magical representation, a sort of precursor, of the philosophy of another George Frideric, that of Georg (Wilhelm) Friedrich Hegel’s dialectics.
|Colin Balzer & Reginald L. Mobley|
By being close to the singers I could see how the music influenced their emotion and how this emotion was manifested in their faces. These singers, in spite of being in an oratorio and not a full blown opera are good actors in their own right. I watched how Time would get up from is seat and look back on Beauty with the disdain of experience. Disinganno was softer in his resolve to make her see the truth. In fact I thought, when the performance ended, that the truth of the oratorio is really a combination of time and disillusion.
That experience is truth.
Feeling sober, in spite of all that Massalian wine, about that existentialist angst I decided that I might have a short chat with the two men (who in spite of all the wonderful arias sung by the sopranos) were in my opinion the cornerstone of the evening's performance.
|Verstappen's baroque organ & Sylvain Bergeron's lute|
In their dressing room I had little time to ask too many questions. In fact I only asked one, a deeply philosophical one. To Reginald Mobley I asked, “Why spats?” His answer (and I must report that indeed he is a charming and sweet man) was a direct, “And why not?” He then explained that spats is the short word for the correct name a male’s apparel, spatterdash. And he further commanded me (so gently) to mention that he purchases his spats in San Francisco at Spatterdash.
One last comment that I cannot force myself not to make. I watched concertmaster Chloe Meyers play her violin with a passionate and sweet virtuosity as she accompanied Beauty in her last aria Tu del ciel. I thought of what I had learned from the pre-concert talk with Matthew White and Alexander Weimann. I had heard the same the day before with Ellen Hargis in her talk at the UBC School of Music, Handel in Italy. The magical fact is that in that first performance of Il Trionfo del Tempo in 1707 in Rome the concertmaster was no less than Arcangelo Corelli.