Personalities | W.H. Auden | Modern Era | Opera
Possessing an ironic wit and a supreme lyric gift, Wystan Hugh Auden, born in York, England, in 1907, was one of the great writers of the twentieth century. To him, opera was ‘the last refuge of the High Style’, since it was the sole art that could survive the pessimism of modernity. In 1930, Auden completed his first volume of poetry. Later, he witnessed the rise of Nazism while living in the sexually liberated atmosphere of Berlin, and then was a civilian observer of the Spanish Civil War. Relocating to New York in 1939, Auden became a US citizen in 1946. It was during this period that he began to write opera libretti with his partner, Chester Kallman. Their most triumphant collaboration was with Stravinsky on The Rake’s Progress, and the two men also wrote the libretto to Delia, which Stravinsky never set. Other Auden-Kallman collaborations included the libretti to Elegy for Young Lovers, The Bassarids and Love’s Labour’s Lost (1970). Auden died in Vienna in 1973.
‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone. Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone…’ Immortalized in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, W. H. Auden’s poem ‘Funeral Blues’ was set by Benjamin Britten for Auden’s play The Ascent of F6 (1937).
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