The Caretaker is a long-running project by electronic musician James Leyland Kirby, who also records as V/Vm. His work under the Caretaker moniker has been characterised as exploring memory, nostalgia, and melancholia. Initially the project was inspired by the haunted ballroom scene in the 1980 film The Shining, with his first several releases consisting of treated and manipulated samples of '30s ballroom pop recordings.
Handel tinkered with this allegory throughout his career, producing various versions in Italian and English. The plot is a contest for the heart and mind of Beauty: Pleasure and Deceit encourage hedonism, arguing that "life consists in the present hour." Time and Counsel advise Beauty to forswear worldly pleasures, which "will soon decay". (Guess who wins.) You'd expect the villains to get all the good tunes, but the musical interest here is evenly spread. Time and Counsel get lively and contemplative arias; in particular, Varcoe makes Time's "Loathsome urns" beguiling and chilling. Kirkby, playing a villain for once, is an all-too-convincing Deceit; Partridge as Pleasure, though not ideally youthful, makes some gorgeous sounds. Fisher is well cast as Beauty, and Darlow's direction is a triumph.–Matthew Westphal