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It doesn’t take a seasoned academic to tell you that many opera plots are both dramatic and epic. Graphic novels, too, are littered with larger than life scenarios and filled with grand bombast. When you think about it, the two are not as far removed from each other as it first seems. NBM Publishing brings together, in this collection of three volumes, the various opera adaptations of illustrator and artist P Craig Russell spanning his four-decade career.

Russell’s style is certainly worth its reputation. He manages to create visual pace and drama in a two-dimensional medium. Indeed, certain adaptations, notably Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, are particularly high-octane and absorbing. As graphic novels go, they are quite excellent and certainly worth the time of any enthusiast.

What grates, however, is Russell’s rather liberal approach to the operas’ narratives. Although all the main themes and plot points are there, a few things are likely to frustrate opera purists – why, for instance, does the Queen of the Night suddenly turn into a dragon?

The appeal of these volumes to opera connoisseurs probably won’t stretch further than novelty value. But for an opera-friendly graphic novel enthusiast, Russell’s vibrantly colourful and gripping style makes for an excitingly different, page-turning experience.

James Waygood Read the full review on Agora Classica

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