Monthly Archives: June 2013

Palimpsest of lost Cherubini Médée (Medea) Aria Restored with X-Rays

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/06/14/x-rays-reveal-lost-aria-in-200-year-old-opera/

X-Rays reveal lost aria in 200-year-old opera

By Megan Gannon – Published June 14, 2013 – LiveScience

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Scientists have helped to restore Luigi Cherubini’s opera “Médée” to its original glory.

A lost aria, or solo song, from the piece, which Cherubini apparently smudged out in spite more than 200 years ago, has been revealed by x-ray scans.

Luigi Cherubini

Luigi Cherubini

Cherubini was an Italian composer who worked mostly in France and counted Ludwig van Beethoven among his contemporaries and admirers. When Cherubini’s French-language opera “Médée” premiered in 1797, critics whined that the opera was too long, and as legend has it, the composer cut the piece by about 500 bars.

Médée revival
A shortened Italian translation of the opera became the dominant form of that opera into the 20th century. But today, many opera-goers and critics long to see “Médée” which tells the wrenching Greek myth of Medea as Cherubini first wrote it.

‘When we saw iron we would put a little digital red ink blot down, and when we saw zinc we’d put a little green dot down.’ – Samuel Webb, a beam line scientist at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource

A well-received bicentennial version of the opera in its original form was produced in New York by Opera Quotannis in 1997; critic Peter G. Davis declared at the time that the doctored form “we’ve been hearing all these years, should now be permanently set aside.” Back in December, an audience displeased with a radical take on Cherubini’s “Médée” apparently lobbed obscenities at the performers in Paris and shouted “Stop the desecration of opera,” according to the New York Times.

Now scientists are taking part in the revival, too. In an original manuscript of Cherubini’s “Médée,” the closing lines of the aria “Du trouble affreux qui me dvore” (“The terrible disorder that consumes me”) are blacked out. Scholars sent the copy to physicists at Stanford University’s Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in Menlo Park, Calif., where the lost musical notes were recovered with the help of powerful X-rays. Continue reading