Perfect Lives: An Opera - by Robert Ashley (Burning Books/Archer Fields HBK)

This is Robert Ashley's libretto to his TV opera Perfect Lives, partly commissioned by Britain's Channel 4 and screened by them in several episodes in 1984 - a repeat screening is now long overdue! It's the perfect companion to the soundtrack which is available as a 3CD set or double-cassette on the Lovely Music label, featuring Ashley as narrator with musicians such as "Blue" Gene Tyranny, Peter Gordon and David Van Tieghem. The book also contains a synopsis of the plot and various textual 'explanations' by Ashley, as well as an account of the creative process which brought the opera into being. The complex narrative(s) interweaves fictional characters (of the downbeat sort that might inhabit a Robert Altman film) with philosophical discourse. The different modes of address are reflected in the book's typographical design. Moving, amusing and mysterious, this is a major literary and musical work, and a milestone in recent avant-garde opera. (Chris Blackford)

Enquiries about the availability of this book and relevant CDs should be directed to Lovely Music ( who deal with most of Robert Ashley's work. Perfect Lives is also available on video, released by Lovely Music.

This review was published in Rubberneck 17, December 1994

© Rubberneck

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