Conductor: Emmanuelle Haïm
Production: Krzysztof Warlikowski
Bellezza (beauty): Sabine Devieilhe (soprano)
Piacere (pleasure): Franco Fagioli (countertenor)
Disinganno (disillusion): Sara Mingardo (mezzo-soprano)
Tempo (time): Michael Spyres (tenor)
I have seen Handel's oratorio Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno staged before. This time I watched it on medici.tv from Aix-en-Provence. It is a youthful work written by 22 year old Handel while he was visiting in Rome. At that time in Rome opera was forbidden and of course women singing in public was also forbidden. All the high voices would have been sung by castrati. The previous time I saw this it was mounted in Zurich as a vehicle for Cecilia Bartoli as Piacere, and even Anna Bonitatibus who replaced her was incredible. It forms the core of Cecilia's album Opera Proibita.
It's a hard work to stage since it is just a philosophical discussion and has no plot. The subtitles were in French. Watching a philosophical discussion in languages you only partially understand is a problem.
Early on Disinganno says to Bellezza "La bellezza non ritorna piu." I repeated this out loud several times. (Beauty never returns.) For some people like Jennifer Lopez it never leaves, apparently. Just remember that at 75 no one looks that great. Sorry. If this work has a plot, it is putting Ballezza in her place. Eventually you'll look ugly just like us.
Bellezza and her unnamed boyfriend attend a party where drugs are taken. They are seen passing the drugs around by kissing. Then suddenly first boyfriend and then Bellezza faint. Both are taken to the hospital where boyfriend is declared dead. He makes many more appearances, sometimes only in his underwear, without actually seeming alive. Bellezza both does and doesn't recover. Mostly her mascara runs, which is sort of ugly. She is teased by pleasure and lectured by time and disillusion.
This staging worked pretty well but bogged down in the center. In Zurich amusing things went on behind the main singers, and that happens to a certain extent here. The biggest problem is that there is no Cecilia or even Anna Bonitatibus to keep us amused.
Minkowsky is wilder and more exciting than Emmanuelle Haïm. Here's what I heard in Zurich.