Us, writ large

By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  January 24, 2006

I like L’Allegro best when the compositional patterns evolve. One long sequence at the end of Part I morphs from a throne-room procession to a grand-right-and-left to a mini square dance for six quartets, and on to more inventions that fulfill the poet’s view of an excursion on a sunny day.

I like it least when the dancers pretend to be trees and hunting dogs, or imitate the moon or a fireplace.

Occasionally a word would crystallize out of the gorgeous weave of music, but mostly I couldn’t make out the text. Milton’s high-Renaissance rhetoric (“Hence, loathèd Melancholy,/of Cerberus, and blackest midnight born . . . ,” it begins) scans best on the page. Just the inkling of its noble sentiments makes the dance imposing enough anyway.

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