Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Not The Messiah is an oratorio based on The Life of Brian, and it celebrates the 40 years of Monty Python. It was a magnificent performance. I enjoyed it so much that I will put it back on my queue for another viewing down the road. I do this very rarely.
The performance took place in the Royal Albert Hall in 2009. The Royal Albert Hall is a marvelous setting for musical works. In addition, the music was provided by the 120+ piece BBC Symphony Orchestra, while the chorus consisted of 140+ voices. In addition, were four opera singers.
This is obviously the setting for an evening of high musical culture--except for one small detail. This is produced by the Monty Python gang. The music was inspired by Handel's Messiah, a glorious work performed at Christmas on every continent and in every locale with a large chorus. However, refusing to being tied down to consistency, other musical flavors are included: pop, Welsh hymns, country and western, doo-wop, hip hop, Broadway, and Greek chorus.
A number of the arias and choral presentations were obviously "influenced" by Handel's own words. The lyrics ranged from the sentimental to the raucous to the maudlin to the just plain silly, and occasionally with a bit of profanity thrown in. This, I think, is what makes it so successful--the context. One expects magnificent lyrics to fit the setting and the music and the musical talent available and one gets nonsense.
Then there were the side bits. For example, we were treated to a Bob Dylan shtick, complete with guitar and harmonica rig, as he mumbled his way through "We are all individuals." Thanks to the powers that be for subtitles. One of Handel's choruses in the Messiah is titled "All we like sheep have gone astray." The Monty Python version is somewhat different--"We love sheep." At the appropriate moment of course in wanders a shepherdess with a flock of sheep (three). Also wandering on stage throughout the evening were bagpipers and a squad of Royal Canadian Mounties. Somehow a group of Mexican trumpeters got into the orchestra, complete with Mariachi outfits. Most of this nonsense was provided by the Monty Python group themselves. On hand were a couple of Terrys, a Brian, a Michael, and a few other noteworthies.
I must confess that I'm not a Monty Python fan. I have seen several of their films and thought them enjoyable, but could never understand the adoration of their fans. However, this is a really great film and one that I will watch again in the future.