Ireland and the World of the 1950s
Darryl Jones Fantasia: Under Milk Wood in the 1950s
I On 23 May 1953, Dylan Thomas met Igor Stravinsky in Boston. It was Aldous Huxley who brought the two together, in the hope that they could collaborate together on an opera, which would be a kind of successor to The Rake’s Progress (1951), Stravinsky’s opera for which W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman had written the libretto.1 Thomas and Stravinsky got on well, corresponded, and began to draw up plans to write their opera together. As the correspondence proceeded, Stravinsky invited Thomas to spend some time in his home in San Francisco later that year, so that the pair could seriously get down to work. On 11 September 1953, in almost the last letter he wrote, Thomas wrote enthusiastically to E. F. Bozman, his editor at Dent, about his forthcoming American trip. He was to give readings in New York, including three readings of the latest version of his still-unfinished work Under Milk Wood at the Poetry Center, but ‘The other, and main, reason [for going to America] is to begin work with Stravinsky on a new opera’.2 Dylan Thomas got as far as New York, on 20 October, but never made it to California. In New York, staying at the Chelsea Hotel, be began to complain of feeling unwell, and repeatedly claimed ‘I have seen the gates of hell’.3 On 9 November, after a day spent drinking at his favourite bar, the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, he died, of alcohol-induced swelling to the brain, with complications...
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