Tolstoy thrives under brave Miami opera
Avoids pitfalls of adapting classics
William Littler / Toronto Star
MIAMI - "Bravery in art takes many forms a - " among the more
worrisome the habit of creating new works based on established
The Germans have never forgiven Charles Gounod for his operatic
sentimentalization of Goethe's Faust. Spanish eyes roll heavenward
at the mention of Mitch Leighs's musical vulgarization of
Cervantes' Don Quixote as Man of La Mancha.
And now we can only guess what the Russians will think of what
has just happened in Miami: the transformation of a Leo Tolstoy
novel of 700-odd pages into a two-act opera with music by the
American composer David Carlson.
Anna Karenina is one of those sprawling, tear-soaked 19th-century
tomes we tend to tackle during our emotionally vulnerable years.
Readers may recall the hero of Philip Roth's 20th-century novel
Goodbye Columbus even remarks at one point he always knows when
it is spring because his young sister is reading Anna Karenina
It is one thing to suffer vicariously through its passionate
pages. Imagining how the novel's many subplots and introspective
characters can be condensed into one musical evening is something
One of the great might-have-beens of 20th century opera is the
Anna Karenina the English composer Benjamin Britten had planned
to write for production at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. When
Soviet troops invaded Prague in 1968, Britten abruptly withdrew
from the project, leaving his intended librettist, Colin Graham,
with a fistful of preliminary sketches.
Many years later, after attending St. Louis Opera Theatre's
premiere of David Carlson's first opera, The Midnight Angel,
Graham showed the California-born composer the sketches and
the two men decided to pick up where Britten had left off, with
Florida Grand Opera eventually offering them a commissioning fee
so the company could ornament the opening season in its proposed
new home with a high-profile world premiere. ...
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