Latest Issue

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…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect