Magazine article Musical Opinion

Television Opera

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Television Opera

Article excerpt

TELEVISION OPERA By Jennifer Barnes Boydell & Brewer Ltd ISBN-0-85115-912-5 124pp + prelims hardback L35

Thirty-five pounds is a lot of money to pay for a book the text of which runs to just 100 pages, but this study would be difficult to recommend at any price. The problem is that one really does not know what lies behind or within this book. In short, precisely what is its purpose?

Jennifer Barnes's writing is littered with solecisms and inelegant grammar, and in the opening paragraph of her Preface she is simply wrong. The book's subtitle, The Fall of Opera Commissioned for Television, is itself open to different interpretations. Despite these regrettable matters of presentation, the book focuses on three operas commissioned for television: Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, Britten's Owen Wingrave and Gerald Barry's The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit. The central section, devoted to Britten, details with notable success the televisual 'journey', as it were, from the 1952 NBC cut version of Billy Budd to Owen Wingrave.

Anyone with half an interest in the book's subject will see that this choice self-fulfils the subtitle; Gerald Barry, as an artist, is simply not to be considered alongside Britten or Menotti. There is no discussion of the music of any of the composers; there are no music examples; and, as much space is taken up with the technical details of recording and transmitting the finished article, one wonders if a musician would find the book of much interest, the Britten section apart. …

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