Elements of Style, the opera

Strunk and White's Elements of Style (full text, Amazon), a briliant, indispensible text for anyone who wants to write clearly and well, has been adapted as an operatic cycle of nine songs to be performed at the main reading room of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, beginning October 19th.

Although lyrics like "Revise and rewrite" and "Do not use a hyphen between two words that can better be written as one word" suggest the didactic thrust of "Schoolhouse Rock," Muhly's work is more in the minimalist-modernist mold of Philip Glass and Steve Reich but with an absurdist dash of Spike Jones. At just 33½ minutes long, the work was impressively executed by soprano Abigail Fischer, tenor Matthew Hensrud, violist Nadia Sirota and banjo player Sam Amidon, all under the direction of Muhly and augmented by the Omit Needless Words Orchestra, which included noise-making amateur performers such as fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi and cartoonist Rick Meyerowitz (Kalman's "Newyorkistan" collaborator), as well as Kalman herself. Their brief mandated the making of sounds incorporating duck calls, meat grinders, bells, Slinkys, mallets, pillows, eggbeaters, megaphones, "chattering" cups and saucers, a typewriter and the slamming closed of a large book.


(Thanks, Oboreruhito!)