For this Halloween, a look at an iconic cultural character that was created 200 years ago, and has been frightening audiences of all kinds ever since. This Saturday night at Stanford Live, there’s a program called ‘Beethoven Meets Frankenstein,’ which includes Heinz Karl Gruber’s work inspired by children’s rhymes called Frankenstein!! This year marks the bicentennial of the gothic novel that began as a challenge among friends, and grew into a metaphor for the danger of playing God.
There’s more information at the Stanford Live website.
The adaptations for opera and dance tend to rely more heavily on the original story. In 1990, Libby Larsen even used the full title, Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus, and in her notes for the work compared the scientist who wants to create life from death to the father of the atomic bomb. “Consider the parallel between late 18th century experiments with alchemy and the human condition, and the 20th century dilemma of nuclear power and radiation. Central to the dilemma are the human beings—the Victor Frankenstein, the [Robert] Oppenheimer… —who, by succumbing to intellectual egotism and ambition, became aliens in the society they wish to enrich. They become monstrous. It is for the genius that we must fear.” Composer Mark Grey has also written an opera based on the tale, from which he assembled a symphony, co-commissioned by Berkeley Symphony, and performed there in 2016. Whether true to the novel, or just using the character we’ve come to know from the films, the story continues to fascinate and inspire works as different as cartoons, comedy sitcoms, and even a Broadway musical based on yet another adaptation, the 1974 cult classic Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks.