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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Love, Lust, and Lunacy: The Stories of Saul and David in Music
Leneman, Helen

Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2010 pp. xii + 399. $95.00

Series Information
Bible in the Modern World, 29

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Description: This is Lenemanís second foray into the interdisciplinary study of the Bible and music, following her The Performed Bible: The Story of Ruth in Opera and Oratorio (2007). In Love, Lust, and Lunacy she shows how these themes have captured the imagination of librettists and composers of many eras to set the narratives of the books of Samuel to music. Leneman convincingly illustrates musicís ability to suggest emotions and character traits that can only be read between the lines of a text, through an in-depth discussion of 16 operas and oratorios from the eighteenth to the late twentieth centuryóincluding works of Handel, Nielsen, Parry, Honegger, Milhaud and lesser-known composers. The musical analyses can be understood on different levels by both specialists and non-specialists, providing a new perspective for biblical scholars along with a new appreciation of the biblical texts for musicians and music lovers. Librettists and composers working with the Saul and David stories were alert to the complexity and ambivalence of the biblical portraits, and filled in the blanks left by the biblical writer in stirring and compelling ways. Their gap-filling may sometimes contradict traditional versions or interpretations of the biblical text, but their musical creativity often makes the words and actions of the biblical characters more convincing and compelling. In the musical works reviewed here there are portrayed three-dimensional figuresónot only David and Saul, but also Samuel, Michal, Bathsheba, the Woman of Endor and others, personages barely glimpsed between the lines of the biblical text but imagined in different ways by readers in every generation.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Historical Books, 1-2 Samuel, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, History, History of Interpretation

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Review by Christina Landman
Published 11/13/2011
Citation: Christina Landman, review of Helen Leneman, Love, Lust, and Lunacy: The Stories of Saul and David in Music, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2011).


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