international company. which was their aim when it was founded. then audiences cannot have it both ways— it‘s either a narrow provincial company putting on standard repertoire in conventional productions or an international company achieving prestige through new. experimental and exciting work. ()heron is all that. We'll find out next week if it succeeds. ((‘arol Main)


It has been a busy year for the unfashionably prolific Anthony Burgess. Already he has published a new novel his thirtieth ~ Kingdom ()fthe Wicked. a controversial biography of D. H. Lawrence and a translation of(‘yrano de Bergerac. Love him or hate him. and not many sit on the fence. you can‘t accuse him of indolence.

At 68 he shows no sign ofletting up. still putting in long hours over his

typewriter. still responding to questions with his customary enthusiasm. But why did he want to rewrite the libretto ofWeber's ()beron 2’

‘As a homage to Weber. I’ve long admired the overture for its delightful melodies and because of

that we realised the opera itself must

be good.‘

Burgess is rare among his contemporaries. combining the talents ofcomposer and musician as

well as that of renowned author. Was

that why Scottish ()pera had commissioned him'.’ 'ch. I think so. Auden. ofcourse. wrote several librettos. including Stravinsky‘s Ruke's Progress with (‘hester Kallman. but I don’t recall them

being performed terribly frequently.

There are very few writers now who

can write and read music and writing

opera librettos is the most difficult thing in the world.‘

He seemed. however. to have relished the challenge sol asked whether he would be doing more in future. ‘I would love to. In a way it’s a diversion from writing novels. I

would like to do Weber‘s Frcisc/uilz.

Many of Rossini's operas are lost

because of the wretched librettos and I would like to translate Wagner from the German. But one only has one life and that gets shorter every day!‘

That was an ironic saying coming

from a man who for the last 25 years.

has been living on borrowed time. He collapsed in Malaysia. was diagnosed as having a brain tumour. and sentenced to death in a year‘s

time. Instead of moping or settingofl

on a world cruise ( It‘s only in fiction that “terminal year” men have

something tucked away') he buckled

down to novel writing. chiefly to secure posthumous royalties for his family. He wrote five novels that year including the celebrated Inside Mr linderby. Was this. I wondered. the key to his attachment to Weber who. knowing he was dying

abandoned his family in (iermany to

travel to London and compose ()heron. eventually earning a paltry £782 (is for his efforts'.’

‘I have immense admiration and respect for the man. He was a l‘)th century professional. He even learned [English in a remarkably

short time to be able to set the words

to music. And you can tell how well

he got to know the language from the , score. particularly from his stresses. i He showed immense skill in fitting words to music; which is more than most of our pop singers do today!‘

It is largely due to Planche's ‘ultra-romantic' libretto (‘He was probably too influenced by Byron'. observes Burgess) that ()beron has become a musical white elephant. Burgess hopes that with the new libretto it will now appear regularly on repertoires of major companies but he does not minimise the difficulties in writing a leth century libretto for a 19th century opera. ‘lt‘s madness. utter madness. (iod knows howit's going to work. I‘ve preserved the fairy element. I had to. otherwise the music wouldn‘t make sense. but I‘ve given the opera a contemporary setting and props and use the modern equivalent of Baghdad. It's very topical.”

It is also very intriguing. Perhaps the best thing is to turn up in (ilasgow on the 23rd. Will the librettist be in the audience? ‘See you there.‘ says Anthony Burgess with the confidence of a man who only half knows what to expect


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