B1779. David Littlejohn. The Ultimate Art – Essays around and about Opera. University of California Press, 1992. 303pp. Index; Photos; Illus.; DJ. - 0-520-07608-7 9780520076082
“Anyone who cares about opera will find THE ULTIMATE ART a thoroughly engaging book. David Littlejohn's essays are exciting, provocative, sometimes even outrageous. They reflect his deep love of opera--that exotic, extravagant, and perpetually popular hybrid performing art form--and his fascination with the many worlds from which it sprang.
From its seventeenth-century beginnings, opera has been decried by its detractors for its elitism, its artifice, its absurd costliness, and its social irrelevance. But Littlejohn makes us see that opera embraces an extraordinary amount of intense human emotion and experience, Western culture, and individual psychology. It is also the most complex, challenging, and demanding form of public performance ever developed--at its most spectacular it pulls together in one evening a play, a concert, a ballet, and a pageant, not to mention an exhibition of painting and sculpture. Every opera is a veritable piece of cultural history.
The book begins with ‘The Difference Is They Sing’, a potentially controversial essay on the nature of opera and its place in modern culture. From there Littlejohn goes on to consider everything from ‘Sex and Religion in French Opera’ to ‘What Peter Sellars Did to Mozart’. He tells us about every major staging of Wagner's RING cycle since 1876, the troubled fate (in legend, history, and opera) of the city of Nuremberg, and the volatile collaboration of Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
Littlejohn presents these and many other fascinating moments in the history of opera with conviction and flair. By the end of the book the reader may very well be persuaded that opera is indeed the ultimate art.”
- University of California Press