The Ultimate Art: Essays Around and about Opera

David Littlejohn, Author
David Littlejohn, Author University of California Press $45 (320p) ISBN 978-0-520-07608-2
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-520-07609-9
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Critic-novelist Littlejohn, who teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC-Berkeley, is on such easy terms with history, art, literature and architecture, as well as music, and writes such compelling, expressive prose that this collection of 16 essays, reprinted from San Francisco Opera magazine, is a great pleasure to read. His hope of being ``sufficiently engaging to lead readers to listen more carefully to the music'' is immoderately modest given the scope of erudite opinion and factual material here, especially his 78-page introduction surveying the major and secondary opera houses worldwide and repertories past and present. Opposed to canon, Littlejohn's judgments about specific works are never ``altogether closed'' and he ``potentially likes'' most of the operas in the standard repertory. His formula for a ``satisfactory'' opera experience comprises these elements: the right opera, the right production and the right spectator. Opera buffastet itals/eed , for example, can be turned into ``silver (if not gold) given the right production''; at the same time, Littlejohn does not countenance ``directorial conceit alien to the score'' as in Peter Sellers's stagings of the Mozart-da Ponte operas. New readings, though, are welcomed, for, after all, ``The Ring is ours now, not Wagner's.'' Photos. (Oct.)
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