Monday, January 12, 2009

The Son of the First Jewish Archbishop

Author Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, says some of the inspiration for his highly successful and rather dark children's books, "A Series of Unfortunate Events," came from...opera. From the condensed melodrama of it.

"...A lot of terrible things happen in a short period of time and they also have time to pause and sing about how terrible it is that it's going on."

Handler, himself, was made possible by an opera. That's where his parents met.

During an interview yesterday at The King's English Bookshop, he explained that at nine years of age his idea of getting into trouble was sneaking downstairs and listening to Alban Berg's opera, "Lulu." His parents, he said, thought the material was unsuitable for young children. (The plot involves murder and suicide and brothels and lesbian countesses.) Though, he said, they didn't appreciate the fact that the youngster didn’t understand much of the German expressionist opera.

"I'd heard the phrase 'lady of the evening," he says," and I didn't know what that meant but it sounded intriguing. It sounded sort of vampiric."

In his hometown of San Fransisco, Handler appeared in operas as a boy soprano.

His father, he said, is a great opera lover and sadly tone deaf and so has been only spear-carriers. His father, Handler said, likes to brag that he was the first Jewish archbishop.

“It was only in the Opera ‘Tosca,’ but still something of an achievement.”

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