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Gracchus is modern opera on a grand scale. As such, it brings together music, poetry, dance, and philosophical reflection in a total work of art. Its ancient setting, the late Roman Republic, a period of socio-economic dislocation and factional strife, lends itself to an allegory of contemporary political history and a penetration of the topic of populism, both in America and abroad. The story, though based on Plutarch’s Lives, is an energetic fiction propelled by perennial questions of the human condition. It incorporates many of the marks of high classical drama: a titanic struggle to the death between two enemies, a ghost, a mysterious prophetess, betrayal of friendship, revenge, family strife, infidelity, reconciliation, emotional release, and, of course, the spilling and binding of blood. All this is elevated and crowned by a soaring musical score.