Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Music of Maurice Sendak

I was starting to research my posts for our discussion of Avi Steinberg's Running the Books when I discovered that he had recently done an interview for the Paris Review with the late Maurice Sendak,
In the past, you’ve spoken of listening to music while you draw. What were you listening to with Bumble-Ardy?

There are certain pieces of music that are always attached to certain books. And there is a logic to my choices, even if I don’t always know it. Here, I chose Verdi. I don’t like early Verdi, and I love very late Verdi. I’m eighty-three. When he was eighty-three, after Aida—it’s too bad he didn’t say this before Aida—he said, “Enough already, enough.”  He said that he was done, finished, kaput. And then he met this young man, Boito, composer of Mefistofele, who told him, “You have more in you, old man. You have more in you!” So Boito wrote libretti for Otello and Falstaff, and, by the time they were done, Verdi was eighty-five or eighty-seven and died. But, in my opinion, those are the two greatest Verdi operas in existence. Those pieces are unbelievably fresh, young, fantastically beautiful.
This reminded me that Sendak collaborated with Tony Kushner on a production of Brundibar, the children's opera which was composed and performed at the Nazi concentration camp Terezin. Kushner and Sendak also produced a book version:  Brundibar.  PBS' Now has a useful page for more information about the opera accompanying this great interview with Bill Moyers in which Sendak explains how he became fascinated with the opera. and probes the author on blackbirds and Schubert, bullies and the Holocaust and how you can't get rid of evil.


I also recommend Fresh Air's Sendak tribute and this cartoon by Sendak and Art Spiegelman from The New Yorker.
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