Music: Last Voyage

"I would much rather have written the best song of a nation than its noblest epic." So said Edgar Allan Poe, the 19th century American poet, teller of horror tales and inventor of the detective story. A vulnerable sort, tormented by melancholy and eventually by drink, he was infatuated with the mystery and dramatic power of music. Years after his death in 1849, composers—Sousa, Rachmaninoff, Debussy—found themselves equally fascinated by the music of his words.

In his new opera, The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe, Minneapolis-based Composer Dominick Argento, 48, has chosen to treat...

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