Belezza: Malin Hartelius
Piacere: Anna Bonitatibus
Disinganno: Marijana Mijanovic
I was in Zurich so I bought a ticket to see Handel's Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at the Zurich Opera. It's an Italian oratorio that has been staged like an opera. Beauty and pleasure form a pair set off against time and disappointment. This quartet are idling away their time in a bar, like one in Zurich where the rich and elegant congregate, when time challenges beauty with a claim: time always beats beauty. Where are the beautiful in the graveyard? While they are arguing, the clientele changes constantly. People in evening clothes are replaced by members of the Salvation Army, altar boys, sailors, and four men who bring in a dummy and set him up at the bar. At the end the dummy bursts into flame. (In Germany fire is not allowed on the stage. Here they constantly burn things up.)
Disappointment, sung by Marijana Mijanovic, warns that when beauty leaves, it never returns. I was fascinated by this woman who sounds remarkably like a falsettist, but isn't one.
The dynamism of the coloratura in this work is extreme. Perhaps Handel worked with some incredible singers in Rome in 1707. The most incredible of all is pleasure, a role that was sung by Cecilia Bartoli in the opera's last mounting here, and whose arias form the framework for her Opera Proibita tour. In this mounting it was sung very well indeed by Anna Bonitatibus, a personal favorite.
Time wins all arguments. It hardly seems an argument worth having. Beauty, sung by Malin Hartelius, begins as a blond, bejewelled and evening gowned woman and ends as a nun in full habit who has seen the error of her ways. Pleasure is driven out.
The star of the evening was unquestionably Marc Minkowski, the conductor. His work is remarkable.
Other side of the argument from one whom beauty has long abandoned: because it is fleeting, all the more reason to flaunt our beauty while we still possess it. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Should we hide all the flowers because they bloom only for a day?