Wednesday, June 12, 2013

X-rayed aria

After the debut of the opera Médée by Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) in Paris in 1797, reviewers commented that it was too long. The Italian composer scratched out the aria called "Du trouble affreux qui me dévore" ["The terrible disorder that consumes me"] and the opera has been performed without it ever since. Scientists at Stanford University's National Accelerator Laboratory - who recovered Archimedes' lost writings a few years ago - have now successfully applied their x-rays to Cherubini's musical score. By sorting out the iron in his ink, the zinc on the pre-printed paper, and the charcoal he used to scrub out the section, they have restored the opera so that it can now be performed in its entirety for the first time in more than 200 years. Physicist Uwe Bergmann describes, "It was amazing to be able to see the complete aria. For me, uncovering the composition of a genius' work that had been lost for centuries is as thrilling as trying to uncover one of the big secrets of nature." Listen to part of the opera here and the missing aria here.

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