Gary Schmidgall: Literature as Opera

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John F
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Gary Schmidgall: Literature as Opera

Post by John F » Sat Sep 17, 2016 10:21 am

Schmidgall's topic is how major literary works - plays, novels, autobiographies, etc. - have been chosen and adapted for musical-dramatic setting. Each chapter presents one great operatic composer and one opera that Schmidgall thinks represents the composer's way of thinking and working and his strength.

Some of Schmidgall's choices are obvious, some seem idiosyncratic. Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" and Berg's "Wozzeck" are unavoidable. Verdi's Shakespeare operas are an inevitable choice, but not so "Macbeth" rather than "Otello" and "Falstaff"; apart from the reasons Schmidgall gives, he has interesting and non-obvious things to say. The most conspicuous omission is Wagner. "To struggle with the immense Medieval epic sources and then with the composer's involved personal and aesthetic preoccupations seemed, frankly, more than a mere chapter could possibly achieve." Still, he might have tried. But as an anthologist told us at Norton when pitching a big thick anthology, a book is not valuable for what it leaves out. There's plenty of content here to inform and to stimulate thought.

"Literature as Opera" was published by Oxford University Press in 1977 and is long since out of print, but it can be had in cloth or paperback from Amazon's associated sellers for as little as a penny, it says here. Or if you have a local library that's strong in serious books about music, maybe you can borrow it.
John Francis

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