“Can a man know the truth and tell it to the greatest number and still be misunderstood? Can one man be of the many and still be known?” The title of Tod Machover’s new opera, Schoenberg in Hollywood, will likely be reframed as a question by many audience members, e.g. “Schoenberg in Hollywood?” What could the inventor—or perpetrator, depending on your perspective—of the musical revolutions of atonality and twelve-tone music, the composer whose works the philosopher Theodor Adorno described as severing the last connection to the listener, what could such a figure possibly have to do with Hollywood? The answers to this question that the opera poses can tell us a lot about Schoenberg, but they also provide interesting insights into how Machover has positioned himself in relationship to his famous forebear as well as the challenge of communicating complex ideas.
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