Article Title

The Sound of a Poet Singing Loudly: A Look at Elegy for Young Lovers


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

When W. H. Auden wrote to Igor Stravinsky to accept the offer to write the libretto for The Rake's Progress, he closed his letter with an unusually unguarded expression of joy: "I need hardly add that the chance of working with you is the greatest honour of my life."1 Auden's remark, besides praising Stravinsky, reveals the reverence which characterized his view of operatic collaboration. Auden saw opera as the remaining verbal art form which employed the "High Style," and could offer a niodem poet the chance to sing loudly.2 His fondness for musical theatre grew as he answered requests for new libretti and translations. One could say that opera became a serious business for Auden, since he boasted that the commissions given to him and his collaborator Chester Kallman paid quite well. During his later years opera came to occupy a significant place in his criticism and public lectures. In the series entitled Secondary Worlds given as the T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures in 1967, Auden devoted his most comprehensive talk to the world of opera. The following year, Auden was invited to deliver the prestigious opening address at the Salzburg Festival. His speech, entitled "Worten und Noten," dealt with the relationships between language and music, and standing before the Salzburg audience Auden said that "opera is now to me the most fascinating of art-forms."3

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