I had a lovely chat with composer Gregory Spears about his new opera O Columbia, which you can read at Houstonia Magazine. His first opera–a 2009 premiere I wish I had been at–was based on Willa Cather’s short story “Paul’s Case.” As a Cather scholar myself (and a big fan of her own opera criticism in the early 1900s), I think it’s marvelously appropriate she get an opera about one of her stories, too.
A saucy excerpt from her music criticism: Writing for the Courier in 1900, Cather reviews a recital given by contralto Clara Butt: “I cannot say just why this young woman gives one a creepy feeling as she does. She made me think of all the verses of all the Degenerates, and sometimes I thought she was more terrible and pessimistic than Yvette Guilbert herself…” And later: “The girl has absolutely no musical intelligence; no musical memory, no musical taste. The brain cells are not fashioned the right way, the nerve tissue is not of the right fibre, and Miss Butt will never while time endures be an artist.”