I went into the library for something else entirely, and came away with this. Doesn't it always happen that way?
Something of a curiosity, this - a collection of stories by the great and the good of British literature today, plus a cartoon by Posy Simmonds, all commissioned to celebrate Glyndebourne
's 75th anniversary. Each story takes an opera (or, sometimes, more than one) as a starting point and sees where it takes it. Here is Winterson:
"Opera has always needed a story. Some inspirations are direct - like Britten's Turn of the Screw
, or Wagner's Tristan and Isolde
, and others, like Mozart's Marriage of Figaro
, or Verdi's Rigoletto
, take a story and shift it. Why not take an opera and shift it?"
And this results in some very striking stories. From the fantastical ("First Lady of Song", riffing on The Makropoulos Affair
) to the serious ("Freedom", drawing on ideas of race and identity and the life of John McCormack), the slyly self-referential ("To Die For"), the elegiac ("La Fille de Mélisande") - it's a lovely collection. What they all conveyed, though, was the sheer attraction of narrative, of story, whether translated into music or not.
I like this way of writing; I even thought about writing one myself. Largely, one didn't need to know the opera to 'get' the story, though there a few that I want to seek out now.