hypothetical future. Platonov’s incubusnis his feehng that his potential forngreatness has rotted, unstimulated bynhis “godforsaken” “mudhole” of a relentlesslynprovincial town, Moscow asnpanacea is broached in the last scene,nwhen it is waved before Platonov like ancarrot by the wealthy widow Anna,nwho tries to regain him by offering tonsponsor his settling there.nIn accord with such a reading, Chekhov’snfirst play becomes his creativenself-justification for moving to Moscow.nAs Troyat’s biography makes exceedinglynclear, Chekhov’s life alwaysnexhibited a remarkable wanderlust.nWhile Troyat preserves Chekhov’s reputationnof appearing content and evennself-effacing, his well-documentednurge to be precisely where he wasn’tnbelies some of his famous complexitynand enigma. Even during his finalnmonths the tedium would overcomenhim, and he would make the longnjourney from Yalta to Moscow, despitenhis frail and failing condihon.nThe seeds for at least this aspect ofnhis life were planted in his first dramaticnfiction, through which he seemed tonhave exorcised his possible, provincialnfuture. Bearing in mind that Chekhovnwas roughly 21 when he wrote thenplay, this notion of autobiographicalnprojection appears confirmed whennPlatonov, 26, claims in the first scene,n”I wonder you recognized me. Thenlast five years have ravaged me like ratsn[at] a cheese. My life has not turnednout as you might have supposed.”nLater he despairs of his situation further:n”I shall be the same when I’mnforty, the same when I’m fifty. I shan’tnchange now. Not until I decline intonshuffling old age, and stupefied indifferencento everything outside my ownnbody. A wasted life. Then death. Andnwhen I think of death I’m terrified.”nIn his response to the recent Broadwaynproduction, Frank Rich rhetoricallynasked, “Mr. Frayn picked the tiden’Wild Honey’ because of the play’snhothouse erotic tensions, but where isnthe spark between Ms. Walker (or anynof the women) and Mr. McKellen?”nThe play itself, like so many of Chekhov’snlater works, is essentially a treatisenon boredom; and all of Platonov’snhalfhearted trysts with his “women”nare to ward off the tedium they allnshare. In the midst of widow Anna’snmaneuvers, near the play’s end, to winnback Platonov’s affections, she learnsnthat her stepson’s wife is having annaffair. With whom, she wonders,ncould it be? “There’s no one in thisnmiserable littie place to be in lovenwith! There’s only the doctor. She’snnot in love with the doctor! There arenonly a few elderly landowners and anretired colonel and … oh, no!” Anprocess of elimination instantiy leadsnher to suspect Platonov, but she is sondesperate to occupy her time that shenwill not permit anything to interferenwith her own designs.nSuch is the context and the subtextn—conveying the boredom in the romancenseems as integral a part of thenplay as it was of life. As GrahamnGreene observed in response to TyronenGuthrie’s 1941 production of ThenCherry Orchard, “Chekhov’s work isnnot young: it is as old as the strangenland from which it emerged . . .ntwisted by sickness, boredom reels towardsnYalta to die.”nDavid Kaufman is a theater critic innNew York City.nMUSICnMeistersingernby Dale Volberg ReednDivo: Great Tenors, Baritones, andnBasses Discuss Their Roles bynHelena Matheopoulos, New York:nHarper & Row; $25.00.nTo an opera lover, a guided excursionnthrough the mysterious world of thenopera singer is irresistibly appealing.nAre opera singers merely brainless,negotistical voices? Do voice teachersnand vocal techniques make a difference?nHow much do opera singersnworry about acting, about musical interpretationnof roles? Helena Matheopoulos,nauthor of Divo, is an enthusiastic,ngenerally competent guide, andnthe tour she provides is fascinating.nThe organization is by vocal ranges,nwhich provides continuity betweennchapters: We discover, for example,nwhy Faust is an easy role for NicolainGedda and difficult for Alfredo Kraus;nwhy the Duke of Mantua is a youngnnntenor’s role but Radames is dangerousnfor a young voice; why, of 32 B-flatsnRadames sings, only one is really difficult;nwhy singing Parsifal could make antenor lose the voice for Rodolfo.nRather than simply transcribe interviews,nMatheopoulos has written annarrative about each singer, combiningnbiographical material with lengthynquotations from the subjects as well asnobservations from other members ofnthe operatic world. I am delighted tonreport that this is not a gossipy book.nBiographical details are reported onlynwhen they are relevant to the singers’ntraining and development.nDivo is not a “page turner” or even an”good read.” It must be read slowly.nBalancing reading with listeningnwould help make abstract and possiblynesoteric topics like vocal color andntessitura much more immediate. Thenauthor’s turgid style does not makenreading any easier. Often her clumsynsentences reflect fuzzy thinking. Shenwould have been well served by anstringent copy editor, who could alsonhave caught her occasional inexcusablenerrors in musical terminology.nDivo is graced by a small selectionnof excellent photographs, all but onenshowing the singers performing rolesnthey discuss in the book. The onenpriceless exception is a photograph ofnPavarotti dressed for a costume party asna sheik, with shades.nThis is a serious, honest book aboutndedicated men at the top of theirnprofession. They are clearly—sometimesnsurprisingly—intelligent andnthoughtful, often highly articulate,nand impressively hardworking. Thenbook offers an admirable antidote tonmany old stereotypes (though a musicnlover serious enough to read this booknalready knows the stereotypes arenfalse).nDivo will inevitably find its audience.nReal opera fans will relish itsnrevelations and forgive its flaws. Generalnreaders, if they can tolerate ancertain amount of obscurity (chieflynunelaborated references to roles, operas,nor composers) may be interested innthis intimate view of genuine craftsmennat work. Excellence in almost anynfield exerts a fascination of its own.nDale Volberg Reed is a piano teacher,nan amateur harpsichordist, and anchoir singer.nMAY 1987/51n