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Happy Alchemy: On the Pleasures of Music and the Theatre

av Robertson Davies

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212493,199 (3.92)20
One of Canada's--and the world's--most beloved authors, Robertson Davies was also a devoted fan of opera and the theater. In this follow-up to his first posthumous collection, A Merry Heart, Davies ruminates on these lifelong passions, offering a diverse sampling of personal reflections on everything from the ancient Greeks to Lewis Carroll, Scottish folklore to Laurence Olivier, the sins of Verdi to the virtues of melodrama. The combined effect of these thirty-three essays, lectures, plays, and librettos-- edited by his widow and daughter--is true alchemy, as "readers . . . come away with a renewed appreciation of the ease with which Davies routinely transformed his sometimes erudite passions into delightful entertainments" (The New York Times Book Review).… (mer)

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This collection, published as a follow-up to Davies' posthumous collection The Merry Heart, contains essays, lectures and other treats on the subject of theatre and opera, including a libretto Davies wrote for a children's opera. Each piece is introduced with a brief explanation of how the piece came to be and, where applicable, excerpts from his theatre diary that talk about performances of the plays or operas he discusses. Davies' pieces are written in an intelligent, smooth style that lends them well to being read aloud, as one might expect from a lecture. Throughout the book he comes across as well-read, curious about the world, and above all enthusiastic about the theatre and other "lively arts". Such enthusiasm is contagious; it may have you wanting to go and see more plays! I found the opera sections quite interesting as well, despite not being a keen opera-goer; I particularly liked the dissection of the operas made from literature and how difficult it is to capture a novel in opera form (especially Sir Walter Scott's novels, some of which were adapted with a singular disregard for the social context of the source material). Reading Davies' libretto was interesting, although it probably would have had more effect being performed. And I have to wonder, would children sit through an opera these days, even one that was intended to run for less than an hour?

The themes in this collection crop up with sufficient regularity to make it a better candidate for a bedside table read rather than something to be read straight through. Recommended for those who like Davies' writing or those who enjoy the theatre. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Dec 10, 2016 |
A mixed bag: some wonderful essays, some not very interesting essays. ( )
  Rosareads | Aug 1, 2013 |
It wasn't so funny for one of the Vaughan bros. or Jack Parsons. tho, with Robertson Davies merriment never ceases to break through. everything by this great Canadian writer is worth the effort. There is much to be learned about the writer's approach in his letters ed. by Judith Skelton. grant: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. i had hoped he would to a ripe old 100, but, alas, we have been without him for almost 13 years now. ( )
1 rösta Porius | Dec 3, 2008 |
Happy Alchemy's subtitle reads, "On the Pleasures of Music and the Theatre", and this work presents 33 Davies pieces, including "Lewis Carroll in the Theatre", "Opera for the Man Who Reads Hamlet", "Dickens and Music", "How I Write a Book", and the humorously self-depreciating "My Musical Career." Happy Alchemy shares many fine insights about humanity while also providing many historical and literary lessons for the reader.
  mmckay | Apr 27, 2006 |
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By happy alchemy of mind
They turn to pleasure all they find.


— Matthew Green
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One of Canada's--and the world's--most beloved authors, Robertson Davies was also a devoted fan of opera and the theater. In this follow-up to his first posthumous collection, A Merry Heart, Davies ruminates on these lifelong passions, offering a diverse sampling of personal reflections on everything from the ancient Greeks to Lewis Carroll, Scottish folklore to Laurence Olivier, the sins of Verdi to the virtues of melodrama. The combined effect of these thirty-three essays, lectures, plays, and librettos-- edited by his widow and daughter--is true alchemy, as "readers . . . come away with a renewed appreciation of the ease with which Davies routinely transformed his sometimes erudite passions into delightful entertainments" (The New York Times Book Review).

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