(Written 26 Dec 2010)
Dear All,
Even if you never ever read anything else about art, be sure to read the chapter, Van Gogh, Painting from inside the head in Simon Schama’s, The Power of Art, (Bodley Head, 2009). Apart from wonderful writing and insight into what made 19 C. art, you will come across the phrase that describes what great opera has done for us.
On page 329 Schama discusses van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone (1888). After a brief discussion about the painting he turns his focus to the couple in the foreground. “Middle-aged, arm-in-arm, (they) gaze raptly up to the heavens and seem, like his sower, to be water-walking, ushered into the heart of the miracle, canoodling on the threshold of infinity. With them, with that sky, van Gogh has arrived at his own startling vision: that what we should see is what they feel. What we see is the vision of their rapture, caught not prosaically in some stock piece of character depiction, but in all the unuterrable, immeasurable intoxication of the senses.”
How often have you not arrived at the coda of a great aria – where the libretto has become meaningless but the emotion gets to your very insides – and looked for that phrase, “the unuterrable, immeasurable intoxication of the senses.”