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Illuminating opera

The philosopher Bernard Williams brought to his writings on opera a rare vigour and intelligence—although Vernon Bogdanor disagrees with his interpretation of Wagner

By Vernon Bogdanor   November 2006

On Opera by Bernard Williams (Yale University Press, £19.99)

Listening many years ago to The Marriage of Figaro and Pelléas and Mélisande on Radio 3, I found the operas illuminated by interval talks given by the philosopher, Bernard Williams. The talks were short, about 20 minutes, and yet of a depth that is rare even in scholarly tomes on opera. Although barely acquainted with Bernard, I begged him to bring his scattered writings on the subject together into a book. He smiled appreciatively and said he would think about it. In the preface to this volume, his widow, Patricia, says…

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