Thursday, 19 February 2009

Th'unkindest cut

Last week's Samson at the Barbican seems to have been well received by the critics in the broadsheets (Hilary Finch's review in the Times is here). What is interesting is that no-one seems to have mentioned that the work was heavily cut. I'm sure they noticed, after all you don't review a work like Samson without doing your homework. So we must assume that in a succinct review in print, it wasn't deemed worthy of notice. This is interesting in itself because the cuts meant that we lost 3 small solo parts (Israelite Man, Philistine Man and Virgin). Perhaps Handel oratorios are regarded as being so long that cuts are taken as read.

But this seems to be a very Handelian phenomenon. It is not so long ago that Covent Garden could mount a new production of Alcina for Yvonne Kenny and miss out an entire character (Oberto). Granted, this DID cause comment in critical circles. Imagine if someone put on, say, The Marriage of Figaro with one of the smaller characters cut entirely, perhaps Don Basilio or Dr. Bartolo, this would certainly cause a storm. Wouldn't?

There are, in fact, operas which I feel would be improved if certain characters were removed, but that's an entirely different article.

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