Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
Brand new operas are a relatively infrequent phenomenon, and films of new operas are even rarer. This 1970 film enshrines a 1963 opera composed by Hans Werner Henze (born 1926) in the neoclassical manner pioneered by Igor Stravinsky. The story, set in 1830's Germany and based on a libretto by Ingeborg Bachmann, follows the progress of a cynical English nobleman's practical joke on a town full of people who seem to think that anything the nobility does is all right with them -- even when, as in this case, it involves foisting off a circus ape as a dear relative and holding a grand ball for him. The over-trained animal spouts odd maxims and quotes from Goethe, before "going ape" and wreaking havoc. With its satirical and comic elements, this opera might readily have joined the world's standard operatic repertoire, except for one crucial omission: reviewers complained that the neoclassical score lacked any trace of a memorable melody. While this might be forgiven in a short piece, in an opera, it soon becomes very difficult to take. Despite that, The Young Lord remains on the (very) short list of modern works that are performed occasionally to round out an otherwise too-conservative season.
aristocracy, animal, con/scam, deception, elderly, English [nationality], Germany, lord, nobility, servant, town, village, youth