This collage, the last in the series, pays homage to the title poem “Breezeway” in John Ashbery’s newest collection. One is always guided, if not controlled, by one’s materials. I had no red shutters, no Batman, and no whipped cream; there were scores of other things I did not have—but what I do have is the spirit of the poem to guide me. As I chose images and cut and pasted, it struck me that Ashbery is, at bottom, an optimistic man, with a head full of wonder, wit, and whimsy and a limitless capacity to create.
George Frideric Handel, Il pastor fido (HWV 8) (1712)
On Spotify (complete opera, David Bates/La Nuova Musica)
On YouTube: Overture (Trevor Pinnock/The English Concert)
“He patted his dog Pastor Fido,” so saith the poem Breezeway. As it turns out, a fellow named Giovanni Battista Guarini (1538-1612) wrote a tragicomedia pastorale called Il pastor fido, published in Italian in 1590 and translated into English as The Faithful Shepherd in 1647. George Frideric Handel based an opera on the work, first performed in London in 1712. It was not a hit. “The opera diary of Francis Colman, a playwright and later Envoy Extraordinary at Florence, records that ‘The Scene represented only ye Country of Arcadia. ye Habits were old. – ye Opera Short’.” [citation] A contemporary reviewer asks (and answers) why we should listen now:
A maladroit libretto, a cobbled-together score, a poor reception: What, then, does Il pastor fido have to offer an audience today? First, there’s the fresh, lyrical charm of youthful Handel. The music of the first two acts is generic by circumstance, being mostly borrowed from earlier material, but it is also of high quality, while the third act achieves a dramatic stature that points clearly to the future. The orchestration is simple, but used with imagination. . . [citation]
Credits: The text in the collage is from Ashbery’s poem “Breezeway.” The sources for quotations used in the post may be found at the indicated links. The image and underlying collage, as always on the blog unless otherwise indicated, are mine.