[Dixielandjazz] Great Gatsby as Opera

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Jan 11 20:41:11 PST 2007

loerchen2 at aol.com wrote
> I saw Gatsby at the Met a few years ago, and it was absolutely the WORST
> performance I have ever had the misfortune to sit through (and I like all
> kinds of music).  I was hoping to hear some jazzy music, maybe a tune I could
> whistle or sisng afterward.  Not.  The only "music" in the whole thing were
> the two Charleston dance sequences at Gatsby's party.  The rest of it
> consisted of Gatsby chanting "oold spoooort" at ever opportunity and the
> others delivering similarly boring pronouncements in what sounded like a
> dissonant version of a post-Vatican II Mass.
> I wasn't alone in my opinion -- over half the audience left at or before
> intermission, including all 8 of my party.  I only stuck it out because I had
> a backstage pass and wanted to meet the tenor.  But he looked so embarrassed
> after the show that all I could say was, "I'm sorry.  I hope I get to hear you
> in something else someday."

Hi Sue:

Perhaps they updated it? Or it is a different version?  The version reviewed
yesterday by the NY Times seems very different. That review of is below. And
paragraph 2 makes it sound like there was more music, "snappy song lyrics"
and "The music of ³The Great Gatsby² is always elegant, mysterious and
captivating". Or maybe those usually dour NY Times critics were stoned?

Steve Barbone

"In retrospect Mr. Harbison¹s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald¹s ³Great
Gatsby² seems by far the most distinguished of the three Met commissions.
Perhaps just by taking on this landmark American novel Mr. Harbison set
himself an impossible challenge. And it might have been a mistake for him to
write his own libretto, though it effectively compresses the story and
liberally quotes from the novel. Still he might have benefited from being
forced to contend with a strong librettist during the creative process.

For me, Fitzgerald¹s characters come through touchingly in this opera. The
evocation of the pop songs and dance music of the 1920s is ingenious: Mr.
Harbison had Murray Horwitz write snappy song lyrics for which he composed
his own riffs on Jazz Age pop tunes, subtly spiked with astringent modern
harmonies. The music of ³The Great Gatsby² is always elegant, mysterious and
captivating. . .

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