The Telegraph has an interview with Ian McEwan on the subject of his collaboration with composer Michael Berkeley on an opera that will be debuting in the U.K. next week. Asked why opera, McEwan admits it’s not because of an enduring love (sorry) for the stuff:
“Well, there are certain pieces I do rather like,” he says reluctantly, “but I think operas rather suffer from uninteresting plots.
It’s precisely the lack of real interest in what’s said or what happens that’s often the major problem.”
All of them? “Well, I suppose some contemporary pieces like Wozzeck and Lulu are interesting, much more than The Magic Flute or CosÃ¬.”
McEwan set out to emulate their combination of intensity and truthfulness. “I wanted something in a basically realist mode,” he says, “but heightened musically.”
McEwan and Berkeley had already written one piece – the oratorio, Or Shall We Die?, premiered as far back as 1982. Why such a long wait for their next collaboration?
“It’s my fault, really. Fifteen years ago Michael was saying, ‘We should do an opera,’ and I would say, ‘Yes’ but do nothing about it and just drift into another book.
We looked at a story by Melville, and a Swedish novel, but the theme we kept coming back to was sexual obsession, we thought this made a good plot.”
So for McEwan, it’s opera: meh, sexual obsession: hello.
Now there’s a shocker.