Friday, May 1, 2009

The Marriage of Figaro, Catch 22

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart premiered a brand new opera on this date in 1786. It was called The Marriage of Figaro, and the composer had high hopes. For one thing, it was absolutely brilliant. All his operas were. Colorful costumes. There were tunes you could hum. The characters were lovable, if a bit low-life for the fancy Viennese audiences. It closed after only nine performances, and Mozart went back to giving piano lessons.

It was a hit in Prague.

Mozart appears on pages 7, 10, 13, 17, 104 and 128 in A Book of Ages. He was a child prodigy and died young.

Joseph Heller was born on this day in 1923. He flew sixty missions as a bombardier for the Army Air Corps in World War II. Later he wrote a book about it, which he called Catch 22. He'd wanted to title it Catch 18 but his agent pointed out to him that there was another book with 18 in the title, so he changed it, and Catch 22 quickly entered the language as a byword for official absurdity. When the book came out he was working as a promotions manager for McCall's magazine. The book became a hit and was made into a film by Mike Nichols. Heller wrote other books, but none made as big a splash as his first. Joseph Heller appears on pages 63 and 143 in A Book of Ages.

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