Wednesday 1 September 2010

Singaglonga Kazuo

As I might well have remarked before, in our day all art aspires to the condition of the musical. Or rather almost anything is liable to end up being turned into a musical. Take, for example, Kazuo Ishiguro's fastidious tale of emotional repression below stairs, The Remains of the Day. This, I learnt on the Today programme this morning - though the story's been out there for months - is the latest novel to be adapted for the musical stage (and Ishiguro's more than happy about it). The mind initially boggles at the prospect, but then musicals aren't what they were (more's the pity) in terms of either story or music. With modern 'serious' musicals (yes I mean you, Stephen 'no tunes' Sondheim) nothing happens, and you're likely to leave the theatre humming the programme notes rather than the dreary up-and-down-the-scale recitative that passes for song (naturally I speak from a position of near total ignorance here - c'est mon metier). So, as neither happy-ending storyline nor singalong tunes nor showstoppers are required, almost anything could be grist to the musical mill. Ishiguro's own The Unconsoled could make a terrific night out at the theatre, don't you think? And mining the back catalogue, there must be rich pickings in Samuel Beckett's novels, late Henry James, Proust of course, Virginia Woolf... Any thoughts?


  1. Actually, I think The Unconsoled could make a far better theatrical production than Remains of the Day! And you're so right about Sondheim - a musical that doesn't provide great, memorable tunes ain't no musical.

  2. Why is a musical so called? What's the difference between 'musical' and 'opera'? Nobody seems to question the curiously unlikely stories and inspiration often used for operas.

  3. I enjoyed Sweeney Todd on stage (such a great story you'd have to try really hard not to make that entertaining), but the only bit you can sing is:
    "Not Swee-eeny, not Sweeney Todd.
    The Demon Barber of Fleet


  4. What's the difference between 'musical' and 'opera'?

    It's quite simple, Susan: in a musical they sing in a singy voice, and in opera they sing in a silly voice so that you can't hear the words.

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