The Triumph of Time and Truth, Oratorio by G. F. Handel
The outstanding Baroque composer George Frideric Handel had his first and last oratorio with The Triumph of Time and Truth. He penned the first version of the famous work in 1707, came back to it in the mid-1730’s, and revisited it one last time in 1757, half a century after its initial release. The story, written by Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili in the original Italian, tells of the epic struggle between Pleasure, Deceit, Time, and Truth (also known as ‘Counsel’) for the soul of Beauty. It persisted through all the creative edits. The Triumph of Time and Truth was intended to have a moralising take on excess and hedonism. Thanks to Handel’s musical creativity and uncanny ability to draw real emotion out of the voices of his instruments and singers, the oratorio carries a very organic, human quality that makes it a sensual, transporting experience. Audiences at Teatro Malibran in Venice are in for a special treat.
Handel wisely matched the voices of the soloists to the various characters in order to communicate his various moral viewpoints. Beauty and Deceit are both sopranos, one gentle and comely and the other – bold and almost cynical in her phrasing. Pleasure can be nothing but a tenor, bursting with life and volume. The down-to-earth elements get the lower registers. Truth is a warm alto while Time is a steady basso. These creative determinations make Handel's message clear. The capricious, transient concepts are all positioned in the high tonal space; they compete for attention and partially overlap in range. In contrast, the lower vocal registers represent the good and enduring ideals that also prevail at the conclusion of the oratorio.
In The Triumph of Time and Truth, Handel let his musical gift and his faith guide him. It is appropriate that he kept revisiting this very special oratorio. Musically, lyrically, and conceptually, it is among his best, even if it is not his most famous work in the genre. Both the solos and the ensembles retain the special quality of exploration, desire, and a search for meaning. At Venice’s Teatro Malibran, Time and Truth shall reign supreme once more.