Occasionally I go to the opera, but I’m not a great fan. Most stories seem rather silly, many librettos even sillier. Sometimes I wonder why the composer would select such poor poetry to set his music to. Perhaps I’ve been attending the wrong operas.
What if the text were the Christmas story, as told by Matthew and Luke? There a composer finds marvelous poetry in a tale of contrasts—light and dark, power and weakness. The drama begins with an elderly couple, Elizabeth and Zechariah, who long for a child. It ends with two other elders, Simeon and Anna, who recognize another baby as holy. In between, of course, the main story of Mary and Joseph builds—with disbelief, joy and despair intertwined.
Consider the potential for music. We could hear an aria from Mary’s Magnificat. Solos from Zechariah, Gabriel and Simeon. A duet from Elizabeth and Mary. Choruses of angels, priests and scribes, soldiers and wise men.
Consider the range of scenes. We could find ourselves in a temple, a palace, a humble home, a stable. Other characters come into view: a king in royal robes and another in swaddling clothes, priests, soldiers, shepherds, Magi from afar and, of course, angels.
All that is missing is the music. The original score has been lost. Many composers have since written lovely Christmas music, but none a grand opera. This great story awaits a great composer.
Yet, it may be that this story is so magnificent that no one composer, no one piece of music could do this.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers