Monday, March 26, 2012
Steal this Book. BUY this Book: Liebestod, Opera Buffa with Leib Goldkorn, by Leslie Epstein
What do George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Lili Lehmann, the Satmar rebbe, Carmen Miranda, and James Levine have in common? Give up? All are featured in Leslie's Epstein's new continuation of the saga of Leib Goldkorn, "Graduate, Akademie Institut der Musik, member of the Steinway Quartet, principal in the National Biscuit Company Orchestra, A. Toscanini, conductor". Und so weiter.
At 104, Leib Goldkorn is recalled to his hometown of Jihvala (Iglau) to be feted as the town's oldest holocaust survivor. Leib decides he is the abandoned son of one Gustav Mahler. Papa conducts Tristan at the Hofoper in Vienna with Lili Lehmann in blonde tresses bewitching the young Mahler Jr., along with a pasty young man in a checkered suit with pockets supplied with candy and pants with the unspeakable. (Think who said young man might be) And this is early the book.
Welcome to a zany world that makes perfect sense to the title character. We climax, if that's the word, at the Metropolitan Opera house at "A. Lincoln Center", where our Leib conducts the world premiere of Papa's abandoned opera-starring Renee Fleming. She of the intoxicating voice and presence who proves her devotion to elder Mahler-Goldkorn, along with Luciano Pavarotti as the Prince and Placido Domingo as the head turnip. Or whatever. All ends not well.
Leib's cousins turn out to be...oh, never mind.
This book is worth reading if only to imagine dubbyah the opera. Sitting down front, yet. It's even more worth reading for the plot twists and broken diction of Mr. Goldkorn and his enjoyment in his own reality, if that's the word. I read this novel in one sitting and then read it again. The more you read, the more you enjoy.
Leslie Epstein comes by his creativity honestly, as the son and nephew of Hollywood royalty-screenwriters for Casablanca-among others. Mr. Epstein has for many years chaired the program in creative witting at Boston University. There must be something great in the air on Bay State Road. Read this book, then go find Ice Fire Water, King of the Jews and San Remo Drive. Epstein gives us a magic carpet ride through one man's enviable mania.