In Ezra Pound's Le Testament, the first of his three operatic compositions, the relentless drive for linguistic precision is undermined by an ironic recourse to the imprecise, even mystical, signifying capacity of music and rhythm. Given Pound's lifelong engagement with translation, it is likely not surprising that his turn to opera was essentially literary in purpose, serving the poet as a means to 'translate' the category of poetic language he termed melopoeia (in this case, Fran├žois Villon's Le Testament). What is surprising, however - particularly given Pound's notorious fascist sympathies and his own esoteric poetic style - is Pound's determination to make this poetry accessible, intellectually and materially. Though Le Testament unapologetically valorizes Villon's poems for their unique difficulty, the use of opera (and later radio opera) as the means of translation reflects Pound's desire to make Villon's poetry 'sing' to the masses - calling into question the common conflation of modernist difficulty with modernist elitism.


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pp. 941-957
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