Work: The Perfect Fool
About This Work
Gustav Holst had been thinking of an opera, The Perfect Fool, for some years prior to its presentation in 1922. The opera is a rarity, a large-scale parody opera. It spoofs the conventions of nineteenth century opera in a diffuse structure, including
a number of purely spoken passages. Even the composer's daughter, Imogen Holst, has remarked (in her article on the composer in Grove's Dictionary) that the text by Holst himself is "inadequate." Still, it has been observed that "there is a lot of good music locked up in this rather impossible framework."
The opera begins, oddly, with a 12-minute ballet, said to have been written to provide a sort of précis of the plot of the opera, which is rather difficult to comprehend without such help. The ballet music is written with a clarity and brilliance of instrumentation that will be instantly recognized by any listener familiar with The Planets. A brief opening andante featuring an invocation on trombones by a Wizard (surely a close relative of "Uranus, the Magician") opens three sparkling character dances of, respectively, "The Spirits of Earth," "The Spirits of Water," and "The Spirits of Air." The work has been a concert favorite in Britain for some time.
-- Joseph Stevenson
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