06 Dec / The Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini, translated by Richard Dixon [in Booklist]
On September 11, 1844, Heyum Lehmann from Rimpar, Germany disembarked from a ship in New York harbor to become Henry Lehman. Brothers Emmanuel and Mayer soon followed. From immigrant store owners turned cotton traders in pre-Civil War Alabama, the brothers moved to banking in New York City, setting in motion a dazzling odyssey of wealth, power, consumption, and (alluded-to) collapse.
The story of the glorious rise and spectacular fall of Lehman Brothers is a quintessential American story. And yet The Lehman Trilogy began in Italy as a radio play that expanded into a French stage production in 2013, moving to various European countries, stopping in Italy in 2015. The English adaptation hit London’s National Theater in 2018, garnering international adulation with savvy global audiences able to access NT-Live’s around-the-world filmed screenings. Alas, 2020’s Broadway transfer – finally scheduled for NYC, where so much Lehman history happened – fell victim to COVID.
Meanwhile, playwright Stefano Massini published the stage-to-page novel-in-verse in 2016; it was lyrically Anglophoned this year by Richard Dixon, whose thoughtful author’s note concludes the audio. Enter Edoardo Ballerini. With his distinct, inviting, melodious intonations, the veteran superstar ciphers four generations over a century and a half, embodying dozens of characters in just under 14 magical hours. That Massini has created a riveting epic is undeniable, but Ballerini provides the inspiring energy to animate it, once more, off the page.
Published: 2016 (Italy), 2020 (United States)