Partager l'article ! John Harbison : The Great Gatsby's Opera: ...
The Great Gatsby is a music-driven opera in which the composer bullied the librettist as
they worked together. Every choice was in favor of musical opportunities; Fitzgerald's novel was "respected" only insofar as it furthered the musical design. This might be expected
from a composer who found opera with his ears, at an early age, on the Saturday afternoon Met broadcasts.
The Great Gatsby is a generously proportioned opera based on a very compact novel. Certain
dramatic elements in the story are more confrontational when staged. "Where did you find all those car crashes, gangsters, people behaving so unpleasantly," asked some who
remembered from the novel mainly its fragrant atmosphere. "The room at the Plaza couldn't have been that small," said others, startled to see and hear what may have been so
I take it as a sign of interest, of curiosity to witness it again that the question I've been
asked most often is: "What did you cut?"
I believe my pieces have a lymphatic system, nerves, veins. Surgery presents dangers to the body's
integrity so I tried to make my cuts instinctively and integrally. They correspond to the places that concerned me the first time I heard the piece through, at the dress rehearsal.
Act One: a "symphonic" part of the Overture, some of the choral prelude to scene 3, a sizeable reflective passage in scene 4. Act Two: intricate incisions and concisions in scenes
2, 4 and 6. As reluctantly as I parted with these minutes, the process was ultimately an affirmation of my conviction about The Great Gatsby.
First-time audience members will profit from knowing that the opera differs from the novel in many
ways. Opera as a medium mythologizes and in many ways exaggerates. Myrtle, and her surrounding world, are expanded, to ground the theme of longing in real sensuality (suggesting
that the real mate for Gatsby, one he would never seek, is the woman eventually killed by his car). The meeting between Daisy and Gatsby, after five years, takes place before our
eyes and ears. The theme of the Midwesterner as outsider, Nick's crucial question, dominates the beginning and the end of the piece. Gatsby is not shadowy and mysterious, he must be
heard; he even regales his rival with a mostly phony account of his early life.
The characters expand with the space the music creates for them. The Great Gatsby begins
with a substantial overture which presents some of the central musical and dramatic themes. Ambient music — radio and party singers and bands — has a dominant role. Near the end of
the opera something very unusual happens: The rule is — when the hero dies close the curtain as soon as possible. But this piece is not strictly about the hero, it is also about our
remarkable country, its mystery and possibility, seen through the screen of Gatsby's own mystery, his own sense of possibility. Thus, an epilogue in which some threads are briefly
tied, new meanings opened up.
Those whose ears are enlisted to that point, experience indicates, will remain engaged until the
green light fades.
— John Harbison
Fitzgerald's magnificent portrait of the Jazz Age — in all its idealism, hopes, excesses,
nostalgia, and decadence — remains one of the most widely read American novels. It tells of the rise and fall of Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy Buchanan, married to brutish Tom.
Daisy's cousin Nick Carraway shares with Gatsby proximity and background — veterans of the Great War arrived from the Midwest to seek their fortunes. Gatsby's lavish parties
contrast with the intimate, intricate web of the protagonists' relationships; their reckless actions turn an American dream into something more akin to a Greek tragedy.