This page uses content from Wikipedia and is licensed under CC BY-SA.

L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato

L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato ("The Cheerful, the Thoughtful, and the Moderate Man";[1] HWV 55) is a pastoral ode by George Frideric Handel based on the poetry of John Milton.


Handel composed the work over the period of 19 January to 4 February 1740,[2] and the work was premiered on 27 February 1740 at the Royal Theatre of Lincoln's Inn Fields. At the urging of one of Handel's librettists, Charles Jennens, Milton's two poems, L'Allegro and il Penseroso, were arranged by James Harris,[3][4] interleaving them to create dramatic tension between the personified characters of Milton's poems (L'Allegro or the "Joyful man" and il Penseroso or the "Contemplative man"). The first two movements consist of this dramatic dialog between Milton's poems. In an attempt to unite the two poems into a singular "moral design", at Handel's request, Jennens added a new poem, "il Moderato", to create a third movement. The popular concluding aria and chorus, "As Steals the Morn" is adapted from Shakespeare's Tempest, V.i.65–68.

Michael O'Connell and John Powell have published an analysis of Handel's setting of the text in his musical treatment.[2]

Dramatis Personae

  • Soprano I
  • Soprano II
  • Alto (some versions only)
  • Tenor
  • Bass
  • Chorus

There are no characters, no specific 'L'Allegro" or "Penseroso". The "drama" comes from alternating episodes representing the humors. Some versions give arias to different soloists. For instance, the "da capo" version of the aria "Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures" is sung by a soprano (Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir, 1980) but the truncated recitative version is sung by a bass (Nelson. Ensemble Orchestra de Paris, 2000). Also, all soloists sing in the "il Moderato" section.

Dance choreography

In 1988, Mark Morris choreographed a dance performance to accompany the music and poetry.[5]


  1. ^ Alison Latham, "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato", in The Oxford Dictionary of Musical Works (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003), 5.
  2. ^ a b Michael O'Connell, John Powell, "Music and Sense in Handel's Setting of Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso" (Autumn 1978). Eighteenth-Century Studies, 12 (1): pp. 16–46.
  3. ^ Smith, Ruth. "Jennens, Charles: (1700/01–1773), patron of the arts and librettist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  4. ^ Ridden, G.M.; Rosemary Dunhill (Oct 1998). "Milton's Nightcap: The Correspondence of James Harris". Milton Quarterly. 32 (3): 95–97. doi:10.1353/mq.1998.0016. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  5. ^ Review/Dance; Mark Morris Interprets Handel By ANNA KISSELGOFF, New York Times, October 8, 1990

External links