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Published on Dec 6, 2011
Story by Edgar Allan Poe Opera by Stewart Copeland Directed by Jonathan Moore
If Mark Twain could be called the Beatles of American literature then Edgar Allan Poe would be the Rolling Stones. The stories seem to come from a very dark place but Poe was able to communicate very broadly. He's a giant of American letters but inhabits the murky dark corners of fear and torment. Which all makes him a strange icon for such an upbeat nation.
The Tell Tale Heart is a story of a hideous crime and the resulting descent into madness of the perpetrator. The author was such an odd fish and the account is so convincing that it's tempting to see a genuine confession in the tale. In his pre-Freud/Jungian era, Edgar Allan Poe didn't know much about the mechanics of psychology but was able to intuit in a penetrating way, the workings of a murderous but clearly functioning mind.
It's a story that is perfect for opera. The loquacious murderer expounds his manic inner logic as the throbbing guilt consumes him. The language of the original text drips with lust for the deed. It soars, it gloats, and it marches with the rhythm of false conviction. Even though all ends badly, the obdurate narrator just can't help but admire his evil work. It's the throbbing part that I particularly like.