Saturday, 12 March 2011

Tobit revisited

The book of Tobit may well be my favourite deuterocanonical confection. It's a tale that has inspired great art, novels and music. Among those who've improvised on the narrative have been the multi-talented Andrew Greeley (Angel Light), who transposes the characters into a computer-driven love story that moves from America to Ireland. It's an imaginative retelling well worth hunting down. What I hadn't realised was that Handel, the man behind The Messiah, is also credited with an oratorio on the book of Tobit... sort of.

It's actually a pastiche (pasticcio, to use the correct term) using Handel's other works, and re-crafting them to fit the Tobit narrative. The compiler was one J. C. Smith, and it first saw the light in 1764, five years after Handel's death. The libretto is from another hand, but the music is the master's own. Naxos has an affordable 2 CD recording.

Not at all imaginative is a prosaic essay I wrote on Tobit a few years back. Those of us raised on the "de-deuteroed" 66-book canon often find ourselves at a loss when some wiseacre tosses in a reference to Sirach or Judith, so this was one way of bringing myself up to speed. Whatever else Tobit is or isn't, it's quite a yarn: a sort of (and yes, I'm stretching things a bit here) Tintin novella from the ancient world (believe it or not, 'Snowy' turns up.)

If you're into Handel, this is a recording to consider.


  1. An angel of God lies.

    Hardly inspires confidence.

  2. You can't Handel the truth?!?! :-)