“But stories are only stories,” Gertrude Stein once put it as only she could, in other words: Who needs them? Certainly not, in Stein’s world, a modern opera!
She was writing, naturally, about “Four Saints in Three Acts,” that delectably inscrutable serving of sound and light, a 90-minute sashay down a key boulevard of operatic modernism, one that improbably connects interwar Paris with prewar Kansas City. Here is a piece that looks you in the eye and without the slightest upturn at the corners of its mouth declares: “How many saints can be and land be and sand be and on a high plateau there is no sand there is snow . . .” Or a bit more famously: “Pigeons on the grass alas”!