Saturday, November 26, 2005

Breaking news from New York...

This just in: AP is reporting details still aren't settled for the ending of the opera "An American Tragedy." Show opens New York, Dec. 2. I won't be there. If any readers attend, we would appreciate a full report. (Send e-mail to to discu$$ payment.) For more info, go to:

The write-up sent to me tells that the opera's composer's father - got that? - really liked "A Place in the Sun", the 1951 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, a movie that is supposed to be based on "An American Tragedy." In my mind, that comparison is similar to a saw-horse and a Kentucky thoroughbred.

I can't recall M. Clift's movie name - I think it was George, not Clyde (the name of the character in the novel). But here's the basic difference: the movie was about Mr. Clift (or George), a personality, a singular presence in the movie's world. But the novel is not singularly about Clyde. Yes, we're tightly linked to Clyde's tragic youth and young adulthood (that's all he gets...). But in a larger sense, Clyde is just a strike-plate, just the dynamic, the engine, if you will that opens up and exposes and pulls us into a much larger world - the world as it existed in the early 20th Century.

Also, keep in mind that a tragedy, in literature, exacts widespread ramifications. To set things right, payback is extensive. Think back to high school English when you had to pretend you were interested in all those words in MacBeth but what you really liked was the witches and stuff like that.

A real tragedy means the columns and pillars of the royal house come tumbling down, with lightening and earthquakes wreaking havoc throughout the kingdom. There's trouble in Denmark, not just with a couple of kids. The movie did not develop nor portray the fundamental systemic, societal misalignments in which Clyde and Roberta are trapped. In the movie, the upper class twits became George's friends. In the novel, they were at best neutral, at worst actually hostile. That distinction is critical. At the end of the novel, the cataclysm of Clyde's decisions and actions reverberate from Albany to Rochester, from Boston to Denver. Hopefully the opera will impose this broad scope. Without such themes and precepts and concepts, it won't be Wagnerian, it'll be "Days of Our Lives." But, on with the show! Maybe the music will be good.

Thanks to one of the AP's best new reporters for sending me the info about the opera. I had seen reference to it a while ago in a Terra Haute, IN, newspaper. But I had forgotten about it and I was very glad to get the update. Also, this reporter sent a very nice note. (Plus, I happen to know she's very pretty.)

I'm still reading The Titan. This post was going to comment on that novel, which I'm enjoying. To be honest, I'm not sure why Dreiser has Frank pursuing so many women for so many pages. It's done masterfully, but it seems overdone. What's the point? OK, so Frank is a moral ingrate, a self-centered egotistical rationalizing womanizer. So far, though, I'm left confused by the deep and swirling descriptions that Dreiser affixes to this behavior.

Maybe a light bulb will go on as I continue...

Now here's a tragedy - I have to go back to work on Monday (just kidding, boss)! I took off all of Thanksgiving week. Very pleasant.

Remember, if you want to get an e-mail notice about posts on this blog, please send your e-mail address to I promise I'll keep it confidential; I won't even give it to John J. McKenty as he sits in his rocking chair keeping track of votes on Chicago's City Council...


Blogger E. Ryan said...

Now, I haven't read "An American Tragedy," but I was contemplating which of the three endings might be the best for the show. The composer says he can't decide between the entire orchestra playing a "C" for 30 seconds in unison; playing a soft "C" in a minor key; or playing three "Cs" in a row.

I think the second, soft option isn't really befitting because of the very nature of a tragedy, as Mr. Ewing pointed out in today's post. It's more "lightening and earthquakes" and whatnot.

That means the most logical choice would be the open-ended "C" with everyone in the orchestra hitting the same note with major intensity. The composer says he's leaning toward that ending, and I hope he chooses it.

With the ambiguity that comes with Claude's sentence (Is not saving someone really murder? Does his orginial intent make him guilty?) and, of course, the larger societal questions that are raised, the three notes would give too great a measure of finality. The open-ended note would signal to the audience that this remained something to chew on, so to speak.

I would also like to say thank you to the blog's author for certain extremely nice things he said about me in this post. They made me blush.

1:10 AM  

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