Monday, 23 November 2009

Classic novels to musical theatre

Interesting reflections on adapting classic novels into works of music theatre having read THE BRIDE OF THE LAMMERMOOR immediately followed by THE WOMAN IN WHITE. Leaving aside the obvious quality gap between Donizetti and Lloyd Webber music-wise it is instructive to note that Donizetti's version is an overall improvement on Scott's rambling novel while Lloyd Webber's, saddled with an absolute dog of a libretto, turns Collins' exciting but supremely subtle story into a flat and rather obvious melodrama.
Although one must regret the loss of Lord Ashton, one of Scott's most interesting characters and the turning of Lucy's callow teenage brother into a stock baritone villain one can only applaud the decision to excise entirely the exasperatingly tedious character of Ravenswood's family retainer who must qualify as one of the most annoying and dully repetitious characters in all literature.
The novel's Lucy is a pale creation compared to Donizetti's Lucia and even her attempted assassination of Arthur Bucklaw is unsuccessful. Scott's Ravenswood is admittedly a far more depthful character than Cammanaro's adaptation but at least Donizetti spares his hero the ignominious exit by quicksand (shades of Carver Doone!). Cammanaro also nicely fleshes out the conflicted clergyman, Bide-the-Bent and allots him the portentous lead-in to Lucia's Mad scene.
More thoughts on this and on Collins/Lloyd Webber later.

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