In the snooty, intellectual circles of cosmopolitan neighborhoods, where money is merely a fashion accessory, a more sophisticated version of the causality dilemma, regarding the order of the first chicken and the egg from which it hatched, is discussed endlessly, without ever coming to agreement. Those gathered for wine and cheese after the debut of a new and brazen production on stage, in film, or verses read from the poet’s notebook, will always ask, “Is this Art imitating Life?” While across the theater lobby somebody else will ask “or is this Life imitating Art?” Regardless the answer that the chief socialites may finally agree on regarding this infinite regress, I am sorry to say that the question, in whatever iteration it is presented, is moot. When it comes to Art, what does civilized society benefit if Art imitates Life, or if Life imitates Art? Nothing! Is my answer.
When Art imitates Life, an artist and the audience both wrestle with the traumatic events which society has not been able to collectively process and integrate into history. War movies are a prime example of Art imitating Life. Eighty years after the second world war we are still making and watching progressively more violent movies about Nazis and their incomprehensible evil. When Life imitates Art, we get something even worse: internet memes. These endless loops of copycats produce pointless tropes about the biggest fails of our mundane lives. We may have Art, but have we learned something about ourselves? Have we been enlightened?
When I experience a work of Art that is an abstraction of Beauty, drawn from a hum-drum scene of life, unnoticed by the masses, I am moved and uplifted. The more I expose myself to Art not imitating anything, but illuminating Beauty, the more my own eyes are able to recognize Beauty in my own life.
When Art imitates Art, or, when one artist refines another artist’s vision of Beauty, abstracting something even more pure and integral from what is already a golden highlight of tragedy, we come closer to what we as humans, from deep inside ourselves, strive to surround ourselves with, to be associated with, or to become. In other words, when Art imitates Art, it is as if one is drinking the sweetest nectar from the nectarine after its distillation from a pulpy fruit on the summer branch to a sweet, smooth, blended juice which quenches a subconscious thirst for pure sweetness– without distraction.
The following story, Little Sicily, is an example of Art imitating Art. This novella extracts the best parts of the centuries old tradition of Opera and presents it to my readers who, like me, cannot always filter out the distractions to enjoy its essence of romance, drama, intrigue, betrayal, and tragedy. Using the best elements of (mostly) Italian opera I have built a new, unique story set-in modern-day Italy, with a scoreless libretto, written in English but missing none of the drama and melodrama of a classical opera. The story, built around the greatest arias from a long list of the greatest operas, weaves the themes and backstories of opera’s greatest prima donna’s and leading men to create a unique and modern yet somehow familiar plot, reminiscent of the entire discography.
I have always enjoyed Opera with its soaring melodies and deep orchestration but have sat through very few of them. I appreciate the beauty of the soprano’s velvety voices and the tenor’s role always resonates in my chest but sometimes, honestly, it just sounds like squelching cats on stage to me.
Little Sicily is a modern distillation of the art of Opera, extracting the very best literary elements of the plots and betrayals, the drama, and the tragedy as well as the never satiated thirst for romance and passion, without the over repetition of distorting vibrato in a language indiscernible for the untrained ear. Little Sicily is a story that imitates an Opera, in form, in content, in expression but has intermissions enough to catch some fresh air, get a cold drink from the bar and use the restroom without missing a single twist of the plot.
Pull on your evening gowns and tuxedos. Find your theater glasses and pour a glass of fine champagne as you immerse yourself in the world of Opera. Be ready to be moved by the passion of unrequited love, devotion to family, crime and justice, joy, and tragedy.
V M Karren, author
“This novella encapsulates everything Italian – famous operas, iconic cities, notorious mafia intrigue, coveted cheese, religious traditions, and lots of dramatic themes. It’s like traveling through Italy while getting wrapped up in the scandalous secret lives of a dysfunctional family. The story will suck you in and surprise you in the end. I loved it – Bravo & Encore!”