The Testimony of Usher 22
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Dissertation project The Testimony of Usher 22 is a novel that explores and subverts the subgenre of “opera novel” — the works of fiction in which opera occupies a significant part, both thematically and structurally. While the majority of these works tend to focus on the world of opera “producers” — singers, orchestra musicians, stage directors, conductors, and composers, this novel seeks to bring the most neglected character in the category of “opera novel” to the fore — the audience. Not infrequently, audience is presented in opera novels as a unified body whose participation in the plot is limited to expressions of delight or fear at what is happening on stage. This project, on the other hand, intends to make the viewer’s perception and understanding of the opera and classical music an integral part of the novel’s plot. There are two protagonists in this novel: JB who works as an usher at the Metropolitan Opera and Sally, one of the Metropolitan Opera regulars. Sally’s ever growing obsession with opera leads to the tragic consequences: during the performance she becomes so annoyed with a noisy member of the audience that she gets into a physical altercation with him. As a result of the fall, the man dies, and Sally is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Because the reader learns about the murder at the Met (a common trope of the “opera novel”) early, the obsession that drives Sally to commit the crime becomes the main driver for the narrative. Similarly to other authors who focused on the limits of operatic obsession and were committed to portraying the audience, the novel presents a wide panorama of opera lovers as dynamic well-rounded characters with flaws and sympathetic characteristics.