Virtual Event: Matthew Aucoin
The Impossible Art:
Adventures in Opera
in conversation with GARTH GREENWELL
December 7, 2021
7:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes MATTHEW AUCOIN—celebrated composer, conductor, and cofounder of the American Modern Opera Company—for a discussion of his book The Impossible Art: Adventures in Opera. He will be joined in conversation by GARTH GREENWELL, celebrated author of What Belongs to You and Cleanness.
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While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of The Impossible Art on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About The Impossible Art
From its beginning, opera has been an impossible art. Its first practitioners, in seventeenth-century Florence, set themselves the unreachable goal of reproducing the wonders of ancient Greek drama, which no one can be sure was sung in the first place. Opera’s greatest artists have striven to fuse multiple art forms—music, drama, poetry, dance—into a unified synesthetic experience. The composer Matthew Aucoin, a rising star of the opera world, posits that it is this impossibility that gives opera its exceptional power and serves as its lifeblood. The virtuosity required of its performers, the bizarre and often spectacular nature of its stage productions, the creation of a whole world whose basic fabric is music—opera assumes its true form when it pursues impossible goals.
The Impossible Art is a passionate defense of what is best about opera, a love letter to the form, written in the midst of a global pandemic during which operatic performance was (literally) impossible. Aucoin writes of the rare works—ranging from classics by Mozart and Verdi to contemporary offerings of Thomas Adès and Chaya Czernowin—that capture something essential about human experience. He illuminates the symbiotic relationship between composers and librettists, between opera’s greatest figures and those of literature. Aucoin also tells the story of his new opera, Eurydice, from its inception to its production on the Metropolitan Opera’s iconic stage. The Impossible Art opens the theater door and invites the reader into this extraordinary world.
Praise for The Impossible Art
"Triple threat Matthew Aucoin: conductor, librettist, and composer, and now writer and thought leader. The Impossible Art sheds new light on the musicology, history, and personalities that bring opera to life, with a poet’s appreciation of the importance of the libretto, often overlooked. Personal, witty, and well-researched, it will have you rushing to recordings of works you know well, and ones you have never heard, to listen with Aucoin’s provocative insights in mind." —Renée Fleming
"Matthew Aucoin's The Impossible Art shines with unforced generosity; his generation’s perceptiveness, honesty, and frank address; and the personally felt urgency of moving history forward. Writing with uncanny wisdom and a modesty that is equal parts nerdy and heroic, here is a musician who is as insightful about Auden as about Stravinsky and who blows your mind with psychedelic and synesthetic descriptions of Birtwistle. This is a book infused with first love, and first vows of clear-eyed, lifelong devotion." —Peter Sellars
"I could not put this book down. To read such cogent insights from such an important composer is pure joy from beginning to end. I thought I knew a fair amount about opera, but I learned a lot. If you are new to opera, this book will draw you in—if you are already among the converted, this book will open your eyes to new vistas about this greatest of arts." —Patrick Summers, Artistic & Music Director of the Houston Grand Opera
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