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Night at the Opera, A by Ray Smith

Winner of The Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction in 1992


What a night it would be! The small German city of Waltherrott is inaugerating its upgraded transit system. In honour of this great event, the Burgermeister and other dignitaries are attending a performance of Carl Maria von Strumpf’s masterpiece, Der Hosenkavalier. This poignant and bittersweet comedy perfectly expresses the spirit, the humour, the gaiety of the city. Yes, what a night it would be! But one small thing goes awry. Cascades of cruel and unexpected laughter send Herr Einzelturm, the transit director, on a search into von Strumpf’s last year of life, 1848, the year of revolutions. And beyond him, back to the story of Graf Walther vom Fab, the legendary founder of Waltherrott in the fourteenth century. Back to the Black Death, to Saints Adalbert and Irmtraud and their gruesome martyrdom. A Night at the Opera is a startling comedy, a tour de force of the unexpected, the bizarre, the serendipitous. It is a delightful cavlacade of fools and knaves, grouches and maniacs, frumps and tarts, heroes and clowns. And through it all drifts the captivating music of Carl Maria von Strumpf, the most brilliant, yet most shamefully neglected composer of that most preposterous of art forms – the opera.

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