I have discovered in this life of some 68 years that coincidence of events and thoughts is much more prevalent than one might expect in a world where one’s senses can be assailed on any number of things from any number of sources. And that an understanding of history and literature and the place of literature within that history can throw up remarkable and unwonted alliances. (Ask any present-day student, even of English, to define “unwonted” and I suspect a large majority would say “not required” rather than its true meaning of “unusual” or “exceptional”. But I digress).
I was listening, casually, to Radio 3 the other day when the aria, “Batter My Heart” from John Adam’s opera “Dr Atomic” was played. I hadn’t heard it before but recognised the voice as that of Gerald Finley who I had seen as Hans Sachs in Glyndebourne’s production of Die Meistersinger (q.v. my piece “Waiting for Hans Sachs” on this blog earlier this month). I was immediately captivated by the power of the aria which, I would argue is, as one of the comments on Youtube says, “one of the most touching and beautiful of modern opera”. I had been thinking about the Referendum and all the arguments swirling around the debates, the threats, the lies, the promises, the viciousness and stupidity of certain individuals (we can all come up with more than a handful of those) and it immediately struck me that the John Donne Sonnet “Batter My Heart” which on the one hand is certainly about religion and Christianity and on another about love and loss also has reverberations for us in these last days. The sense of belief and trust in breaking down the walls of doubt that encircle us as a country and in doing so make us stronger, I would argue, gives this aria a profound meaning for our present day fight.
You don’t have to be an opera lover or a classical music enthusiast to “get” the message and hopefully be deeply moved and energised by this excerpt. It’s only 7 ½ minutes long. View it and walk into the light.
Roger Ackroyd ©