Democracy: An American Comedy in Washington

Ulysses S. Grant
Thomas LeClear (1818-1882)
Oil on canvas, circa 1880
Lost in Translation From Novels
To Play and Then Opera

By HEIDI WALESON [Wall Street Journal]
February 1, 2005; Page D8
How is it possible that a new opera crammed with hot-button subjects — political corruption, ecclesiastical self-satisfaction, feminism, homosexuality — could be a blandly inoffensive entertainment? “Democracy: An American Comedy,” by composer Scott Wheeler and librettist Romulus Linney, commissioned by the Washington National Opera and given its world premiere last weekend, was disappointingly safe. Its provocative themes were smothered by a talky libretto that alternated between earnest exposition and sitcom jokes, set in smoothly tonal, insipid musical language.
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