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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

John Harbison’s opera ‘The Great Gatsby’ gets new life

The rhythmic prose of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” throbs with the sound of music.

Cars honk, tires squeal, orchestras play, radios blare, jazz singers croon, champagne glasses clink, party guests buzz in what Fitzgerald calls “an opera of voices.” The bully Tom Buchanan’s voice is “a gruff husky tenor” with “a touch of paternal contempt.” Tom’s wife, the willowy Daisy from Louisville, speaks in a “low, thrilling” voice “full of money.” Myrtle, Tom’s doomed lower-class lover, has “a soft, coarse voice.” Jay Gatsby, that grand impostor, peppers his conversation with a jaunty musical refrain: “old sport.” Nick Carraway, the narrator, an attentive listener, falls asleep to the music coming from the splendid parties at Gatsby’s house across the lawn.

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