Academic journal article Notes

John Eaton

Academic journal article Notes

John Eaton

Article excerpt

John Eaton. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. DVD. Karl Kramer-Johansen / Center for Contemporary Opera. With the Pocket Opera Players. Albany, NY: Albany Records, 2012, 2010. TR0Y1366. $17.99.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was fascinated with the idea of being born old and getting younger over time. The plot "haunted" him for two years before he wrote the short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in January 1922. The story is said to have been inspired by a Mark Twain remark that "it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end"; coincidentally, Fitzgerald said that several weeks after completing it, he found a nearly identical plot in "Note-books" by Samuel Butler (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Before Gatsby: The first Twenty-six Stories [Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 20011, 501).

Whether the idea was original to Fitzgerald or not, one must give him credit for fleshing out the hare bones of the idea in his short story. Note that Fitzgerald did not write a novel; he kept the plot concise for his chosen genre. Fortunately, this means that others can create imaginative, adaptive works that may remain true to Fitzgerald's plot, as in the opera being reviewed herein, or flesh out the details in entirely different ways, as in the Brad Pitt movie version. (The movie starts with the same basic idea but the plot differs in almost every detail.) Before viewing this opera, read the ironic, humorous story by Fitzgerald. It will help the viewer to follow the plot in this hour and a half performance.

The opera by John Eaton, with a libretto written by his daughter, Estela, was presented as the opening event of the American Composers Alliance's Festival of American Music in 2010. As one might expect from a staged work, it strives to present the humorous moments of a serious story in order to entertain the audience. …

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