We have a few new community engagement initiatives starting with our production of Faust on May 15 and 17. The first is the Madison Opera Book Club. The idea behind this is to offer another avenue into opera, this time via literature in partnership with the Madison Public Library. Every year we’ll pick a book related to one of our season operas and host discussions at the local public library branch (for us, that’s the beautiful new Sequoya Library). Our first pick is Douglass Wallop‘s comic novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, an Americanized updating of the Faust story to the world of 1950s baseball (I bet you thought we were going for the Goethe…). Here’s what The Washington Post says in their recent reconsideration of Wallop’s work:
Both “Faust” and “Yankees” are stories of men who sell their souls to the Devil in return for earthly delights. In Goethe’s drama, Faust willingly becomes the tool of Mephistopheles; in Wallop’s comic novel, Joe Boyd somewhat less willingly turns himself over to the hands of the satanic Mr. Applegate. Faust wants perfect beauty and other impossible dreams; Boyd wants something scarcely less improbable, an American League championship for the Senators, whom he — like Wallop himself — loves beyond all reason.
Gounod’s operatic version of Faust is based on Goethe’s spinning of the tale, a decidedly darker story, so Wallop’s lighter version is perfect for comparison. You also may remember that Wallop’s Yankees was the basis for the movie-musical Damn Yankees, so we’ll be sure to tie in a few clips when the book club meets at the Sequoya branch on Saturday, April 25 from 2 – 4 p.m. Here’s a taste:
Get your copy of The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant at the library then meet with us on April 25. Check the blog to follow my reading of the book, should be fun!