Carl Hartman of AP writes about a new opera premiering this week by the Washington National Opera:
Love, politics and corruption under President Grant get comic treatment in an opera that premieres this week based on novels written by a descendant of two presidents.
From the Washington National Opera website:
The libretto by Romulus Linney is set in 1875 and is based on the best-selling novels of Henry Adams, which touch on the actual corruption surrounding the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. Democracy: An American Comedy offers a contemporary look at an age-old dilemma—how can love and power coexist.
Scott Wheeler of Emerson College is the composer.
I happen to be reading A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists - 1854-1967 by Rachel Cohen. I'll try to blog more about this book but I wanted to mention the chapter which describes Mathew Brady, the civil war photographer, meeting Ulysses S. Grant, resulting in this photograph, now in the National Portrait Gallery. Cohen writes about the situation for Grant at that phase of the Civil War and how Brady took all the credit for work done by his assistants while Grant shared considerable credit with his generals Sherman and Sheridan, despite Grant's political ambitions. More importantly, she describes how President Lincoln and Grant were at that point seeking unconditional surrender of the Confederates:
And that's what Brady's photograph was really in service of. Grant needed to look like a sure thing, and Brady, who had been photographing presidents and generals since 1849, knew how to give a portrait inevitability.
Wikipedia summarizes Grant's presidential years:
Though a successful general, he is considered by many historians to be one of America's worst Presidents and led an administration that was plagued by severe scandal and corruption. However, historians also agree that Grant was not personally corrupt; it was his subordinates in the executive branch who were at fault. Grant is criticized for not taking a strong stance against the corruption, and not acting to stop it.
Although elected to two terms, Grant the President may deserve a comic opera. Grant the General doesn't. Note to current and future presidents: screw it up at your own risk.