Music: Morality Opera

When English Composer Peter Maxwell Davies, 37, was a student at Manchester University, he was thrown out of composition class. "They thought I was no good," he recalls. When he persisted in the new-music salons of London, audiences came to the same conclusion: they shouted "Rubbish!" at the première of his brooding, dissonant Eight Songs for a Mad King in 1969, and walked out when his intricate and ironic orchestral work Worldes Blis was unveiled in Royal Albert Hall a few months later. After Davies had labored for more than a decade on his opera Taverner, it was rejected by the...

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