Music: American Christmas

No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.

—W. H. Auden

According to Auden's Law, most of the plays of Thornton Wilder are a poor source for operatic material: deliberately unsensational, they often deal with lives that are determinedly sensible. But last week audiences in Mannheim, Germany, saw Wilder's one-act play, The Long Christmas Dinner, successfully transformed into opera by that master craftsman of contemporary music—Composer Paul Hindemith.

Composer and playwright met more than a decade ago when Hindemith was teaching at Yale. They discussed the possibility of setting one of Wilder's plays to music,...

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