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John Harbison’s opera ‘The Great Gatsby’ gets new life

Dawn Upshaw and Jerry Hadley, pictured here at the final dress rehearsal, starred as Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in the Metropolitan Opera production of John Harbison’s “The Great Gatsby,” which premiered in New York in 1999.
Dawn Upshaw and Jerry Hadley, pictured here at the final dress rehearsal, starred as Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in the Metropolitan Opera production of John Harbison’s “The Great Gatsby,” which premiered in New York in 1999.

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The rhythmic prose of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” throbs with the sound of music.

Cars honk, tires squeal, orchestras play, radios blare, jazz singers croon, champagne glasses clink, party guests buzz in what Fitzgerald calls “an opera of voices.” The willowy Daisy Buchanan speaks in a “low, thrilling” voice “full of money.”

For a composer, the rich sonic world of “The Great Gatsby” is richly suggestive and intimidating. Just ask composer John Harbison. It took him three years to write his opera based on the novel, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in New York and staged there in 1999 with considerable fanfare. On Sunday, Harbison’s opera will finally receive its Boston premiere in a concert version presented at Jordan Hall by Emmanuel Music.

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JOHN HARBISON: “THE GREAT GATSBY”

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