The Dream of Gerontius  

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Dream of Gerontius
Composed by Edward Elgar, 1900
Text by John Henry Cardinal Newman, 1865

You should know
Chris and I recently celebrated our 5th anniversary since we started dating. I spent the weekend in Boston, and we decided we wanted to go to the theater. There weren’t any plays that caught our interest, so since Boston has a world-class symphony, we decided to attend that, instead.

The performance we saw had a pre-show lecture that was free for ticket-holders. We took a copy of Newman’s poem to follow along.


Of course, that went a bit awry. The plan was good: Chris would drop me off at the door and then park while I got our tickets at will-call. Then he’d meet me and we’d attend the lecture, then the performance.

It started out fine. There was no line at will-call, and as soon as I had my tickets in hand, the doors opened. No Chris. I sat there for a while, until I got a call – he’d had to drive about halfway back to his apartment to get parking, and would be taking the T to the symphony. I was to go in on my own.

At this point, the lecture had already started, and I was so worried about Chris and getting his ticket to him that I couldn’t concentrate. The text messages we exchanged when he arrived didn’t help – for one thing, I don’t have an unlimited text plan, so they cost more than they should. Ultimately, I sat through about ¾ of the lecture by myself and retained very little.

After the lecture, I slipped out, got an intermission pass, and gave Chris his ticket. We then settled in for the show.

It was a little hard to follow. I couldn’t understand quite what was going on without following along with the text, and when I followed the text I didn’t feel like I was sufficiently appreciating the music. Also, and maybe I’m expecting too much acting from choral music, but when the mezzo-soprano singing the part of the guardian angel was reassuring Gerontius, or when the tenor singing Gerontius discussed his fear or uncertainty, I didn’t get any of those feelings. The music was lovely, and the story was good, but I just didn’t feel it.

That said, I’m terrible with foreign languages, so seeing a piece originally written in English was very nice.

Do your homework first
Symphony tickets can be expensive, so I would recommend doing some research to see if you’d be into it, first. Listen to the CD; read the poem. Go from there. Personally, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I could see people loving it or hating it. Don’t take a gamble.

The rest of the Internet
The Wikipedia pages for the oratio and the poem.
The Boston Globe reviewed the performance.

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