In a recent New Yorker article about a theatrical adaptation of The Great Gatsby that involves reading the entire novel on stage, Rebecca Mead reviews the various theatrical and cinematic adaptations of the book that have been done over the years. She includes various absurd failures, but fails to mention the most successful adaptation of the piece: John Harbison’s 1999 opera, premiered at the Met late that year. Maybe she knew about the piece and left it out because the excellence of Harbison’s work would conflict with the point she was trying to make about how impossible the novel is to adapt. More likely, I fear, she simply didn’t know the piece existed. Again, to repeat a motif often found in these posts – one of the musics I love has been marginalized – in this case, pushed right out of the picture.
You can hear Gatsby on CDs that the Met is selling as part of a big 32-disc set honoring James Levine on his 40th Anniversary with the company. You have to buy the whole set, no individual items for sale just yet. Too bad the piece didn’t get included in the Levine DVD set that has also been issued – though that does include both Berg operas, Weill’s Mahagonny, and Corigliano’s Ghosts of Versailles. Hear Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson sing an excerpt from Gatsby here.