Opera Anecdotes by Ethan Mordden, 2/5
This collection of short stories connected to opera just barely managed to keep my attention as I read a little bit before bed every night (more for its soporific effect than for any entertainment value). It didn’t help that the connecting prose between anecdotes was awkwardly written to a peculiar degree, and I recognized very few of the featured singers and impresarios.
Why I read it: the title caught my eye while I was browsing books in the thrift store.
Because this book contains a lot of opinions but lacks a corresponding amount of supportive reasoning for said opinions, its value will directly correspond to the reader’s estimation of Casals. As someone previously unfamiliar with the famous cellist and conductor but very familiar with the appeal to authority fallacy, the aspect of the book that I enjoyed most was not the insight into Casals’ world view, but all the name dropping of other famous musicians and composers. My favourite anecdote was when, refusing to perform a Dvořák concerto with a conductor who called it “horrible music,” Casals turned to Debussy for support, who responded “Come on, if you wanted to play, you could play.” Casals was greatly pained by the response but I was greatly amused.
Why I read it: I love the following quote by Casals and when I saw a book about him, hoped to read more in the same vein.
I am perhaps the oldest musician in the world. I am an old man but in many senses a very young man. And this is what I want you to be, young, young all your life, and to say things to the world that are true.