How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

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dulcinea
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How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by dulcinea » Tue Jan 11, 2011 11:20 pm

The plots of operas based on such plays as HERNANI, LUCREZIA BORGIA and RIGOLETTO are among the most truly unbelievable and absurd of all opera plots. :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by slofstra » Tue Jan 11, 2011 11:49 pm

dulcinea wrote:The plots of operas based on such plays as HERNANI, LUCREZIA BORGIA and RIGOLETTO are among the most truly unbelievable and absurd of all opera plots. :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
Well, Les Miz is a great musical, but it lacks the verity of the original unabridged novel. You might recall that Valjean reforms his life after the merciful action of the priest, the Bishop of Digne. The novel gives you 100 or so pages of his life; in the 3 hour musical he gets 2 minutes. Then there is the 150 page detour into a historical account of the battle of Waterloo. Right at the climax of the novel, the scene where Valjean carries Mario through the sewers of Paris, there is a 30 page diversion explaining how the sewers of Paris were built. But despite these idiosyncracies, Hugo weaves a rivetting and realistic account. If you liked the musical, you'll find so much more depth in the book, both in the weave of the story, the depth of characterization, and the indignation at injustice.
I love the musical also, but in a few cases it is seriously unfaithful to the novel. Thenardier is too much the scamp in the musical; in the novel he never rises above despicable. And the street prostitute scene gets a scant few words in the sprawl of Hugo's work. Modern audiences always need a little titillation I guess.
All this to indicate to not judge a novel by its libretto.
Sorry, I'm not more familiar with Rigoletto.

Incidentally, are there any reasons why Les Miz should not be considered a modern opera?

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Jan 12, 2011 2:46 am

slofstra wrote: Incidentally, are there any reasons why Les Miz should not be considered a modern opera?
(Lord) Andrew Lloyd Webber would be my answer... :lol:
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val
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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by val » Wed Jan 12, 2011 5:31 am

dulcinea"
The plots of operas based on such plays as HERNANI, LUCREZIA BORGIA and RIGOLETTO are among the most truly unbelievable and absurd of all opera plots.
You should read the plays, in special Hernani, a true masterpiece of the French Romantic Theater. Victor Hugo was not the author of the librettos, and in an opera the plot is not as important as in theater.
Besides, there are much more absurd plots, from Trovatore to Euryanthe.

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:37 am

I've got to get new glasses. I swear, I first read that subject line about one of the great humanitarians as "How do you rate Hugo as an open leftist?" All set for a fight, too. :)

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josé echenique
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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by josé echenique » Wed Jan 12, 2011 9:25 am

Victor Hugo didn´t like the idea of his plays becoming operas, he thought that with time his plays would be forgotten and remembered only through the operas. He was right.
But the question is: Is Rigoletto a great opera? Of course it is.

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by scytheavatar » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:38 am

dulcinea wrote:The plots of operas based on such plays as HERNANI, LUCREZIA BORGIA and RIGOLETTO are among the most truly unbelievable and absurd of all opera plots. :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
When you have crap like Così fan tutte (can't recognize their own fiancés), Die Zauberflöte (fall in love with each other through paintings), Lohengrin (dies when husband leaves you), Elektra (dies from god-knows-what), Don Carlos (out of nowhere and for no reason dead King drags Don Carlos into heaven), etc I think operas based of Hugo's works are all sane in comparison.

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by THEHORN » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:44 am

Yes, the plot of Ernani is rather hard to swallow, but I don't think that those of Lucrezia Borgia and Rigoletto are all that implausible.
Lucrezia Borgia is in my humble opinion a rather underrated opera that deserves to be performed more often, and would be well worth doing at the Met. It contains some of Donizetti's best music.
And remember The Horn's law of opera : The opera has yet to be written with a plot as ridiculous as what happens in real life.
The RCA recordings with Caballe,Kraus and the late Ezio Flagello,and the Decca one with the late Joan Sutherland and Bonynge are both very good.
But we could use a first rate modern one,possibly with Renee Fleming.

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by slofstra » Wed Jan 12, 2011 2:44 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote: Incidentally, are there any reasons why Les Miz should not be considered a modern opera?
(Lord) Andrew Lloyd Webber would be my answer... :lol:
A lot of people think he wrote it, but he only provided financing to mount the early English production. The musical was written by French composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, with a French-language libretto by Alain Boublil.

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by dulcinea » Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:05 pm

scytheavatar wrote:
dulcinea wrote:The plots of operas based on such plays as HERNANI, LUCREZIA BORGIA and RIGOLETTO are among the most truly unbelievable and absurd of all opera plots. :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
When you have crap like Così fan tutte (can't recognize their own fiancés), Die Zauberflöte (fall in love with each other through paintings), Lohengrin (dies when husband leaves you), Elektra (dies from god-knows-what), Don Carlos (out of nowhere and for no reason dead King drags Don Carlos into heaven), etc I think operas based of Hugo's works are all sane in comparison.
The OPERA article of the WB Encyclopedia of 1984 mentions that many operas have been criticised for their poor libretti. Could it be largely a question of using bad plays as inspiration? Certainly garbage like EL TROVADOR=IL TROVATORE and LA FUERZA DEL SINO=LA FORZA DELL' DESTINO cannot be compared to an undoubted classic like DEATH IN THE CATHEDRAL.
Has MOURNING BECOMES ELEKTRA inspired an opera?
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by THEHORN » Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:33 pm

With regard to Mourning Becomes Electra,yes. The Metropolitan Opera did the world premiere of Martin David Levy's operatic version of the play in its opening season at Lincoln Center in the 66-67 season, and the conductor was none other than the young Zubin Mehta.
The opera was recently revived by the New York City Opera. I'm not familiar with it,but would like to hear it.
From what I've heard,Levy is still alive but has abandoned composition for some reason.

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by josé echenique » Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:35 pm

THEHORN wrote:Yes, the plot of Ernani is rather hard to swallow, but I don't think that those of Lucrezia Borgia and Rigoletto are all that implausible.
Lucrezia Borgia is in my humble opinion a rather underrated opera that deserves to be performed more often, and would be well worth doing at the Met. It contains some of Donizetti's best music.
And remember The Horn's law of opera : The opera has yet to be written with a plot as ridiculous as what happens in real life.
The RCA recordings with Caballe,Kraus and the late Ezio Flagello,and the Decca one with the late Joan Sutherland and Bonynge are both very good.
But we could use a first rate modern one,possibly with Renee Fleming.
I think Lucrezia Borgia is a great opera, James Joyce thought so too.
If you want an alternative to the Sutherland and Caballé recordings, look in Rapidshare for a RAI broadcast from La Scala with Mariella Devia, Marcelo Alvarez and Daniela Barcellona as Orsini. It was a truly marvelous night of singing.

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:44 pm

slofstra wrote:
Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote: Incidentally, are there any reasons why Les Miz should not be considered a modern opera?
(Lord) Andrew Lloyd Webber would be my answer... :lol:
A lot of people think he wrote it, but he only provided financing to mount the early English production. The musical was written by French composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, with a French-language libretto by Alain Boublil.
I was not suggesting he wrote it, I was saying that anything he touches cannot, by definition, be called an Opera... :wink:
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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by slofstra » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:32 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote:
Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote: Incidentally, are there any reasons why Les Miz should not be considered a modern opera?
(Lord) Andrew Lloyd Webber would be my answer... :lol:
A lot of people think he wrote it, but he only provided financing to mount the early English production. The musical was written by French composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, with a French-language libretto by Alain Boublil.
I was not suggesting he wrote it, I was saying that anything he touches cannot, by definition, be called an Opera... :wink:
So, is his Requiem a Requiem?

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by Chalkperson » Thu Jan 13, 2011 1:40 am

slofstra wrote:
Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote:
Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote: Incidentally, are there any reasons why Les Miz should not be considered a modern opera?
(Lord) Andrew Lloyd Webber would be my answer... :lol:
A lot of people think he wrote it, but he only provided financing to mount the early English production. The musical was written by French composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, with a French-language libretto by Alain Boublil.
I was not suggesting he wrote it, I was saying that anything he touches cannot, by definition, be called an Opera... :wink:
So, is his Requiem a Requiem?
Absolutely Not...in fact my Buddy Elvis mentioned it in one of his finest Songs...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0N6TfU54o8

God's Comic

I wish you'd known me when I was alive, I was
a funny feller
The crowd would hoot and holler for more
I wore a drunk's red nose for applause
Oh yes I was a comical priest
"With a joke for the flock and a hand up your
fleece"
Drooling the drink and the lipstick and
greasepaint
Down the cardboard front of my dirty dog-collar

Now I'm dead, now I'm dead, now I'm dead,
now I'm dead, now I'm dead
And I'm going on to meet my reward
I was scared, I was scared, I was scared, I was
scared
He might of never heard God's Comic


So there he was on a water-bed
Drinking a cola of a mystery brand
Reading an airport novelette, listening to
Andrew Lloyd-Webber's "Requiem"
He said, before it had really begun, "I prefer
the one about my son"
"I've been wading through all this unbelievable
junk and wondering if I should have given
the world to the monkeys"


Now I'm dead, now I'm dead, now I'm dead,
now I'm dead, now I'm dead
And I'm going on to meet my reward
I was scared, I was scared, I was scared, I was
scared
He might of never heard God's Comic


I'm going to take a little trip down Paradise's
endless shores
They say that travel broadens the mind, till you
can't get your head out of doors

I'm sitting here on the top of the world
I hang around in the longest night
Until each beast has gone bed and then I say
"God bless" and turn out the light
While you lie in the dark, afraid to breathe and
you beg and you promise
And you bargain and you plead
Sometimes you confuse me with Santa Claus
It's the big white beard I suppose
I'm going up to the pole, where you folks die of cold
I might be gone for a while if you need me

Now I'm dead, now I'm dead, now I'm dead,
now I'm dead, now I'm dead and you're all
going on to meet your reward

Are you scared? Are you scared? Are you scared?
Are you scared?
You might have never heard, but God's comic


This Song about the (innocent) Hanging of Derek Bentley is Chilling...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVpktlj1 ... re=related
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by MaestroDJS » Thu Jan 13, 2011 7:01 am

Victor Hugo, by Camille Saint-Saëns
Reprinted from Musical Memories (Chapter III), by Camille Saint-Saëns
English translation by Edwin Gile Rich, 1919
Camille Saint-Saëns wrote: Everything in my youth seemed calculated to keep me far removed from romanticism. Those about me talked only of the great classics and I saw them welcome Ponsard's Lucrèce as a sort of Minerva whose lance was to route Victor Hugo and his foul crew, of whom they never spoke save with detestation.

Who was it, I wonder, who had the happy idea of giving me, elegantly bound, the first volumes of Victor Hugo's poems? I have forgotten who it was, but I remember what joy the vibrations of his lyre gave me. Until that time poetry had seemed to me something cold, respectable and far-away, and it was much later that the living beauty of our classics was revealed to me. I found myself at once stirred to the depths, and, as my temperament is essentially musical in everything, I began to sing them.

People have told me ad nauseam (and they still tell me so) that beautiful verse is inimical to music, or rather that music is inimical to good verse; that music demands ordinary verse, rhymed prose, rather than verse, which is malleable and reducible as the composer wishes. This generalization is assuredly true, if the music is written first and then adapted to the words, but that is not the ideal harmony between two arts which are made to supplement each other. Do not the rhythmic and sonorous passages of verse naturally call for song to set them off, since singing is but a better method of declaiming them? I made some attempts at this and some of those which have been preserved are: Puisque ici bas toute âme, Le Pas d'armes du roi Jean, and La Cloche. They were ridiculed at the time, but destined to some success later. Afterwards I continued with Si tu veux faisons un rêve, which Madame Carvalho sang a good deal, Soirée en mer, and many others.

The older I grew the greater became my devotion to Hugo. I waited impatiently for each new work of the poet and I devoured it as soon as it appeared. If I heard about me the spiteful criticisms of irritating critics, I was consoled by talking to Berlioz who honored me with his friendship and whose admiration for Hugo equalled mine. In the meantime my literary education was improving, and I made the acquaintance of the classics and found immortal beauties in them. My admiration for the classics, however, did not diminish my regard for Hugo, for I never could see why it was unfaithfulness to him not to despise Racine. It was fortunate for me that this was my view, for I have seen the most fiery romanticists, like Meurice and Vacquerie, revert to Racine in their later years, and repair the links in a golden chain which should never have been broken.

The Empire fell and Victor Hugo came back to Paris. So I was going to have a chance of realizing my dream of seeing him and hearing his voice! But I dreaded meeting him almost as much as I wished to do so. Like Rossini, Victor Hugo received his friends every evening. He came forward with both hands outstretched and told me what pleasure it was for him to see me at his house. Everything whirled around me!

"I cannot say the same to you," I answered. "I wish I were somewhere else." He laughed heartily and showed that he knew how to overcome my bashfulness. I waited to hear some of the conversation which, according to my preconceived ideas, would be in the style of his latest romance. However, it was entirely different; simple polished phrases, entirely logical, came from that "mouth of mystery."

I went to Hugo's evenings as often as possible, for I never could drink my fill of the presence of the hero of my youthful dreams. I had occasion to note to what an extent a fiery republican, a modern Juvenal, whose verses branded "kings" as if with a red hot iron, in his private life was susceptible to their flattery. The Emperor of Brazil had called on him, and the next day he could not stop talking about it constantly. Rather ostentatiously he called him "Dom Pedro d'Alcantara." In French this would be "M. Pierre du Pont." Portuguese inherently gives such florid sounds to ordinary names. This florid style is not frequent in French, and that is precisely what Corneille and Victor Hugo succeeded in giving it.

A slight incident unfortunately changed my relations with the great poet.

"As long as Mlle. Bertin was alive," he told me, "I would never permit La Esmeralda to be set to music; but if some musician should now ask for this poem, I would be glad to let him have it."

The invitation was obvious. Yet, as is generally known, this dramatic and lyric adaptation of the famous romance is not particularly happy. I was much embarrassed and I pretended not to understand, but I never dared to go to Hugo's house again.

Years passed. In 1881 a subscription was taken up to erect a statue to the author of La Légende des Siècle, and they began to plan celebrations for its dedication, particularly a big affair at the Trocadero. My imagination took fire at the idea, and I wrote my Hymne à Victor Hugo.

As is well known, the master knew nothing at all about music, and the same was true of those around him. It is a matter of conjecture how the master and his followers happened to mistake some absurd and formless motif for one of Beethoven's sublime inspirations. Victor Hugo adapted the beautiful verses of Stella to this halting motif. It was published as an appendix in the Châtiments, with a remark about the union of two geniuses, the fusion of the verse of a great poet with the admirable verse of a great musician. And the poet would have Mme. Drouet play this marvellous music on the piano from time to time! Tristia Herculis!

As I wanted to put in my hymn something peculiar to Victor Hugo, which could not possibly be attributed to anyone else, I tried to introduce this motif of which he was so fond. And, by means of numerous tricks which every musician has up his sleeve, I managed to give it the form and character which it had lacked.

The subscription did not go fast enough to suit the master, and he had it stopped. So I put my hymn in a drawer and waited for a better opportunity.

About this time M. Bruneau, the father of the well-known composer, conceived the idea of giving spring concerts at the Trocadero. Bruneau came to see me and asked me if I had some unpublished work which I would let him have. This was an excellent occasion for the presentation of my Hymne, as it had been written with the Trocadero in mind. The performance was decided on and Victor Hugo was invited to come and hear it.

The performance was splendid — a large orchestra, the magnificent organ, eight harps, and eight trumpets sounding their flourishes in the organ loft, and a large chorus for the peroration of such splendor that it was compared to the set pieces at the close of a display of fireworks. The reception and ovation which the crowd gave the great poet, who rarely appeared in public, was beyond description. The honeyed incense of the organ, harps and trumpets was new to him and pleased his Olympian nostrils.

"Dine with me to-night," he said to me. From that day on, I often dined with him informally with M. and Mme. Lockrou, Meurice, Vacquerie and other close friends. The fare was delightful and unpretentious, and the conversation was the same. The master sat at the head of the table, with his grandson and granddaughter on either side, saying little but always something apropos. Thanks to his vigor, his strong sonorous voice, and his quiet good humor, he did not seem like an old man, but like an ageless and immortal being, whom Time would never touch. His presence was just Jove-like enough to inspire respect without chilling his followers. These small gatherings, which I fully appreciated, are among the most precious recollections of my life.

Time, alas, goes on, and that fine intellect, which had ever been unclouded, began to give signs of aberration. One day he said to an Italian delegation, "The French are Italians; the Italians are French. French and Italians ought to go to Africa together and found the United States of Europe."

The red rays of twilight announced the oncoming night.

Those who saw them will never forget his grandiose funeral ceremonies, that casket under the Arc de Triomphe, covered with a veil of crape, and that immense crowd which paid homage to the greatest lyric poet of the century.

There was a committee to make musical preparations and I was a member. The most extraordinary ideas were proposed. One man wanted to have the Marseillaise in a minor key. Another wanted violins, for "violins produce an excellent effect in the open air." Naturally we got nowhere.

The great procession started in perfect order, but, as in all long processions, gaps occurred. I was astonished to find myself in the middle of the Champs-Elysées, in a wide open space, with no one near me but Ferdinand de Lesseps, Paul Bert, and a member of the Académie, whose name I shall not mention as he is worthy of all possible respect.

De Lesseps was then at the height of his glory, and from time to time applause greeted him as he passed.

Suddenly the Academician leaned over and whispered in my ear,

"Evidently they are applauding us."
David Stybr, Personal Assistant and Der Webmeister to Denise Swanson, New York Times Best-Selling Author
http://www.DeniseSwanson.com
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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by John F » Thu Jan 13, 2011 8:23 am

That's very lively and interesting, and it gives an idea of how popular Victor Hugo's writings were in the 19th century, and why. Of course he wrote no opera librettos himself, but his plays and novels were the basis of countless operas of the 19th and early 20th century, not without reason. Some depend on turns of the plot that strike us as absurd, as in "Hernani," which he wrote before he was 30, but others have always been dramatically effective, with "Rigoletto" (based on "Le Roi S'Amuse") the best known of these. To call the plot of "Rigoletto" absurd is, well, absurd.
John Francis

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by lennygoran » Thu Jan 13, 2011 8:31 am

>Is Rigoletto a great opera? Of course it is.<

Jose, right on!!! Regards, Len :)

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by lennygoran » Thu Jan 13, 2011 8:35 am

>Lucrezia Borgia is in my humble opinion a rather underrated opera that deserves to be performed more often, and would be well worth doing at the Met. It contains some of Donizetti's best music.<

I have trouble with this one dramatically--the music is superb but does Donizetti want you to feel sorry for her--the final arias would suggest that but her actions have been so horrendous I just can't have pity for her. I've only seen the opera live once--very nicely done in Boston. The Met should definitely do it--okay I'll settle for NYCO but it better be traditional. Regards, Len

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by MaestroDJS » Thu Jan 13, 2011 9:27 am

John F wrote:That's very lively and interesting, and it gives an idea of how popular Victor Hugo's writings were in the 19th century, and why. Of course he wrote no opera librettos himself, but his plays and novels were the basis of countless operas of the 19th and early 20th century, not without reason. Some depend on turns of the plot that strike us as absurd, as in "Hernani," which he wrote before he was 30, but others have always been dramatically effective, with "Rigoletto" (based on "Le Roi S'Amuse") the best known of these. To call the plot of "Rigoletto" absurd is, well, absurd.
Exactly. From our perspective in the 21st Century, it can be hard to understand just how popular Victor Hugo was in the mid to late 19th Century. Likewise it can be hard to understand just how popular Sir Walter Scott was in the early 19th Century. Some of his plots were convoluted too, but nonetheless his novels also formed the basis of several operas and concert works which remain justly popular.

Mendelssohn, Moscheles and Chopin in Scotland, by J. Cuthbert Hadden
The Scottish Review, Edinburgh, Scotland, January 1899
J. Cuthbert Hadden wrote:Mendelssohn came to Scotland in the course of his first visit to England in 1829. He was then only twenty years old, and although the Scottish tour was of the nature of a pleasure trip, the London visit was made with something like a serious purpose. ... When the season ended Mendelssohn put in execution his long-cherished scheme of making a tour in Scotland. The Waverley novels [by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)] were undoubtedly the chief cause of the visit. The series had just been completed, and he had read them all. It may easily be imagined that they "exerted a powerful influence on a cultured mind like his, and made him desirous of seeing for himself scenes of mountain and flood, such as he had only hitherto read of." He wished also to meet Scott face to face, "chiefly to escape a scolding from you, dear mother, if I return without having seen the lion," he wrote. It appears that he carried a letter of introduction to Scott from one of Scott's intimate friends in London.

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Re: How Do You Rate Hugo As An Opera Librettist?

Post by diegobueno » Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:30 pm

When I saw the subject line, It thought this was going to be a thread about Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

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