Fear in Writing: Edgar Allan Poe, the Opera

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe, the Opera

Album cover for opera
That's right, folks.  Poe is hitting the stage in a new way--set to music.  According to BBC Radio, the drummer for The Police has written an opera based on Poe's famous story, The Tell-Tale Heart.

In order to understand the short story as an opera, one must first know the definition of "opera"--an "art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text (called a libretto) and musical score" (wiki).  Opera came about in the late 16th century, in Florence, Italy--home of so many artistic triumphs.  In the early 20th century, the musical art underwent a transformation by modernists such as Stravinsky and Puccini.  Now, "modern" opera goes back a century and takes on a tale of guilt and madness.

Watch part of it here, if you like:

clever merchandise
Does the story lend itself to opera?  Tragic lead character, dramatic turning point, life-changing event...all there.  But it seems to me the story is meant to be read.  It's meant to be seen in black and white in contrast with the color of Poe's words.  Each sentence is meant to be thought as the narrator thought them, in the growing, swirling madness that slowly overtook his mind.  An opera is too bold for this bold work.  Does that make sense?  Throwing such a story in your face does not make it stronger, but instead weakens the very strengths of Poe's brilliance.

What do you think?

Oh!  And Happy St. Patty's Day!


  1. It sounds at leats as good as the Spiderman musical!

  2. There have been a really astonishing number of operas based on Poe's life or his works. I can't vouch for the quality of any of them, but the concept is actually pretty intriguing.

  3. Michele - Really interesting!!! I actually don't know if the opera format is the best choice, but it's really innovative and I applaud the daring move.

  4. Stewart Copeland? Doesn't surprise me. He's been involved in hundreds of projects.

  5. I am intrigued by the idea of it. I really hope it works out.

    Good blog.

    Best of luck

  6. I love opera, in particular Italian opera; Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti, Monteverdi and that kind of stuff. A live opera performance at the Vienna State Opera is the coolest there is. I must admit, however, that when attending an opera performance, the power of the music and the visual effects often become so overwhelming that I hardly pay attention to the STORY. If the music is good enough, I guess Poe will become great opera >:)

    Cold As Heaven