For some reason, The Hessian Renegades put me in mind of William Shakespeare Burton’s The Wounded Cavalier.
Burton, who bore the names he bore because of the Bard, was an English painter in the XIXth Century, and the Wounded Cavalier is perhaps his most famous work. My friend Marina shakes her head and sniggers whenever either author or painting are mentioned – by me, usually – because, she says, how can I like such an ugly painting?
Actually, it had its fans, back in the day – Ruskin being an especially vocal one. “Masterly”, he called it… Yes, well. I won’t be the one to deny that, whatever Ruskin had to say, TWC is a stagey affair, both stiff and sentimental…
Much in the way of an early Biograph silent. Or an opera libretto.
I read opera librettos for pleasure. Yes, without the music. I love opera and I love music, but I read librettos of forgotten or never-staged operas I’ll never get a chance to hear. And love them.
Just as I love early silents or XIXth Century historical paintings – and not because of their absolute artistic value. Their charm to me resides in how they embody an era, a mindset, a way of romanticising and dramatising history. And this they all did very well – Burton, the librettists, Biograph… So much so that they enjoyed enormous success in their own time.
I suppose it’s enough to make an art-lover or a true opera-lover faint. It’s history-buff stuff, if you like – or perhaps, even more, writer stuff. Strange people who can enjoy something not because it is an immortal masterpiece, but as a window showing another time, its taste, its mindset and its way of telling history in the form of stories.