A NEW 'ENOCH'
JOHN BELL YOUNG tells his story of collaboration
with British actor MICHAEL YORK
A funny thing happened to me recently on the way to New York -- Hollywood.
What began as a campaign to restore to the art of melodrama something
of its former prestige was transformed into a full-scale collaboration with
a cinematic icon. Indeed, the events that made it possible tend to support
the fundamental truth of an age-old aphorism: luck is the meeting of opportunity
While melodrama may evoke visions of rowdy temper tantrums and obsequious
soap operas, it is, in fact, a centuries-old genre and an ancestor of multi-media
programming. It is a kind of small-scale musical, setting forth a poem or
narrative that is spoken rather than sung while an instrumental accompaniment
paints in sound the mood and characters depicted. Many famous composers,
including Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, and Schumann, penned these odd constructs
where three art forms -- music, poetry, and theater -- coincide in a single
For nineteenth century audiences, melodramas were roughly equivalent
to modern cinema, but with one major difference: the audience had to visualize
the story on its own terms.
Enoch on the island 'under a palm tree' - a still from the 1915 film by D W Griffith and Christie Cabanne
In 1962, the controversial pianist Glenn Gould, joined by the golden
era movie actor Claude Rains, restored to melodrama a modicum of its vanished
popularity. Their remarkable recording of Richard Strauss's Enoch Arden
Op 38 (1897), a landmark among melodramas, became an instant classic. A
limited edition of two thousand LPs sold out in no time before going out
of print. Since then, only a handful of recordings of the work have been
made, all by non-actors.
Copyright © 23 September 2002
John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA