A L E X A N D R I A
Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno
When suddenly, at the midnight hour
an invisible company is heard going past,
with exquisite music, with voices-
your fate that’s giving in now, your deeds
that failed, your life’s plans that proved to be
all illusions, do not needlessly lament.
As one long since prepared, as one courageous,
bid farewell to the Alexandria that’s leaving.
Above all, don’t be misled, don’t say it was
a dream, that your ears deceived you;
don’t deign to foster such vain hopes.
As one long since prepared, as one courageous,
as befits you who were deemed worthy of such a city…
CP CAVAFY, ‘The God Forsakes Anthony’
A L E X A N D R I A is a free adaptation of Händel’s IL TRIONFO DEL TEMPO E DEL DISINGANNO, with additional songs from Lou Reed, Nico and Arthur Russell, inverting the work’s moralism and arguing for the revolutionary potency of dissipation in the face of repressive ideological and social systems. An opera, an exhibition, a concert.
The evening starts with Beauty feeling an itch that she can’t scratch. She leaves the loft she’s been sharing with Pleasure. At the diner, she meets Time and Disillusion, who might be her parents, might be older versions of her and Pleasure, or might be gallerists who have collected the documentation of the scene Beauty and Pleasure once inhabited and have assembled it into a retrospective. Time and Disillusion try to talk Beauty into staying with them and leave her past behind, but Beauty freezes and wants another fix, heads back to Pleasure who sets them up. The four figures trip through private horrors before coming out onto another shore, a mystical island: Alexandria, an ur-heaven of easy impiety, of pragmatic honesty, world-wise not world-weary, sundrenched and sultry.
Händel’s first oratorio, composed in Rome in 1707 to a libretto by Cardinal Pamphili, is a ‘moral cantata’, using tropes of personifications of impulses and ideas. Opera had recently been banned, and the performance of IL TRIONFO was hosted by a prelate whose rooms were clad with paintings of his mistresses. In IL TRIONFO, Beauty eventually sees that Pleasure will never truly satisfy her and opts instead to repent at the learned intrusions of Time and Disillusion and devote herself to a penitent life. Huh? Who owns Beauty, who gets to have Pleasure? Who gets to decide? Can IL TRIONFO be regarded as the Christianisation of the Pagan operatic impulse in the early Baroque, an early icon of the woman-as-sacrifice motif that haunts the operatic canon? Or can it rather be regarded as a Tarot deck into which a group of dreamers loaded their ideas of how to live, how not to live, their fantasies of a more eternal learned world, beyond their own strictures and straitjackets?
Eventually Händel moved on and brought Italian opera to London where he settled, an expat again, in a new scene entirely. An avid recycler of his own work, material turns up in whole or in part throughout his subsequent oeuvre, but IL TRIONFO he returned to wholesale, once in 1737 and again in 1757. Was he driven by nostalgia?
Scenes intrude on scenes, people play at their Instagram version of their Berlin experience for a summer or for a year, something they tell themselves resembles the New York Downtown Scene in its heyday. People want to own it, or own a bit of it. They want to embed themselves upon its memory.
Meanwhile, social media insists upon a eulogisation of moments yet to pass, so even the present is looked at as if it is already the past. The 1970s generation seems hellbent on eulogising themselves as their era’s most potent cultural product, those that survived the heroin and the AIDS. Maybe they’re right. In any case, the present and the future are more precarious than ever: the right is on the march all over, the climate is kaputt, and young people wouldn’t have rent money for their year of adventure if it weren’t for the economic balance tipped in favour of their parents.
A L E X A N D R I A is an unreachable feeling, a city dreamt into being, a lost world capital that never was, named for a man who built but never inhabited it. It’s also about liberation, from onesself, from one another, from society, and wonders if liberation is ever possible within a scene or system.
In Italian and English with English surtitles
Concept/Direction/Design/Guitar Glen Sheppard|With Silvia Micu, Soprano|Marie-Gabrielle Arco, Mezzo-Soprano|Gaston Efficace, Tenor|Tim Ribchester, Keys|Andrej Lakisov, Saxophone|Dresses Derya Issever, Pina Rederer|Lighting guidance JAX Messenger, Lena Weisner|Costume Fritz Polzer|Sound effects Michael Johnson
An independent production from People in rooms / Glen Sheppard and Fritz Polzer
Full documentation as well as 12 minute cutdown available upon request - firstname.lastname@example.org.