stop, or my maugham will shoot
La Cieca is not at her happiest dishing a librettist; I mean their dreary overshadowed inkstained lives are already punishment enough, right? But still, it gets under your doyenne’s skin more than a bit to hear Terry Teachout‘s blogging self-aggrandizement at the expense of one of the greats of English literature.
Teachout is, as well all know by now, penning the libretto to a new opera by Paul Moravec based on The Letter, a property best known as the basis for the 1940 William Wyler film that starred Bette Davis in what La Cieca has always believed was that actress’s greatest performance. But, wait, this is not about La Cieca, obviously; it’s all about Terry Teachout. The scribe informs us
Paul and I have gone to considerable trouble to heighten the emotional climate of the play by Somerset Maugham on which our opera is based, in the process turning it from a neatly turned thriller into a full-fledged piece of lyric theater. Our characters, unlike Maugham’s, are concerned not just with their own desires but with the state of their souls . . . . In our version of The Letter, by contrast, they are the heart of the matter, and there is nothing shabby or small about them. We are never bigger than when we grapple, however vainly, with the ultimate mysteries, of which none is more profound–or impenetrable–than the mystery of love.
Lucky Mr. Maugham to have the Teachout/Moravec dream team to add significant artistic value to his sordid little thriller! And lucky we to get to sample the wrenchingly soul-searching poesy Mr. Teachout has devised to be sung by James Maddalena‘s morally challenged barrister:
I’ve lost my way in the jungle,
A way I knew when I was young,
When I thought I knew the truth.
But what is truth?
What is right?
What is love?
And where, where is the light?
“A foggy day in London town / Had me low and had me down…” Oops, sorry, that’s not right. And patently Terry Teachout is no Ira Gershwin.