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Opera

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Subject: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 10 Sep 12 - 10:25 PM

I figure there probably isn't an appetite for a lot of opera threads, but I'm starting this one because this week on PBS in the U.S. they are playing the full Der Ring des Nibelungen. All four operas, after the introductory program tonight. It's a new and though somewhat tricky with the moving set, stunning performance.

Great Performances Wagner episodes

Anna Russell's take on the Ring Cycle

Wikipedia summary of the operas and librettos

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: katlaughing
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 12:04 AM

Wonderful! My brother got to see the Ring Cycle, in Bayreuth. It was an incredible experience.

Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 10:03 AM

I take classes for old geezers , including opera,at a local university. I've avoided Wagner because of his antisemitism.Viewed the entire ring cycle,and,despite traces of antisemitism found it an amazing work. Looking forward to the new production on PBS.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 10:52 AM

Ilike Anna Russells version of the Ring better than I like Wagners..


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 11:08 AM

Anna's version certainly has more laughs.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 11:11 AM

I can heartily recommend ' A Night At The Opera ' by the Marx Brothers.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 11:31 AM

Wagner was a man of his times and the anti-Semitism was part of the culture of his class. You can't make it go away from his oeuvre, but you can understand that it is there. Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is still performed despite the characterization of Shylock. We understand, we know better, and we move on and understand the character is now an artifact only.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Stringsinger
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 01:39 PM

Wagner's Ring is a long time to sit in a chair. He was the master of orchestration,
even designing Wagnerian horns for his work. It was unfortunate that Hitler used Wagner's work as part of his propaganda campaign.

This is some of the most difficult music for a singer; they have to be musical athletes
to get through the Ring.

Bayreuth would be the place to see it. It's a pity that Adolphe Appia, director and set designer was not able to work at Bayreuth because of Cosima Wagner, (I think she was Franz Lizt's daugher.) She wielded a heavy hand of power at Bayreuth.

Rudolph Bing has written about this in his book. Also Appia, himself.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 01:47 PM

SRS: I know, I know. It's an emotional rather than an intellectual issue with me. I'm old enough to know better. If it's not a problem for James Levine, who am I to worry? Thanks for the information on the recent production. Regards, Elmore.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 02:02 PM

I tend to respect Wagner rather more than I actually enjoy him. Have always liked the following remark:


"Wagner's music is better than it sounds."
    Edgar Wilson Nye,
    US humorist (1850 - 1896)
quoted in Mark Twain's Autobiography, 1924


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: katlaughing
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 02:09 PM

Anna Russell was brill. My brother also saw her, live, in her earlier days. Brought home an LP which had us all in stitches.

Strinsinger/Frank! Nice to *see* you back! I may be showing my bro's age, but not only was it Bayreuth, it was also Kirsten Flagstad!

My brother has finished an epic opera and is now entering it into his PC, so we have a couple of sound files I will get up soon. He's now starting the full orchestration. Libretto, stage directions, etc. as well as the music, all by him. I am proud of him.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 02:15 PM

I find opera to be the most hideous and pretentious form of music.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 02:39 PM

Who cares, Bonzo? What is this compulsion of yours to click on topics that don't interest you, just for the odd pleasure of telling us all so, as if we might give a flying one? Are you seeing anybody about it?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 02:58 PM

For the first time ever I agree 100% with Bonzo3legs, performances are priced to keep out ' the riff raff '

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 03:53 PM

I believe performances are priced to mount (mount?) the lavish productions. I can't afford to pay those prices. However, several times a year the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts "live" performances to selected theaters throughout the country for twenty something bucks.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 04:22 PM

Most opera singers sound so manufactured to my ears; they appear to be twisting their vocal chords in an attempt to produce sounds that have no connection to the real world.
And, female opera singers sound so unfeminine, and definitely unsexy ... even Katherine Jenkins!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 04:32 PM

How about the sublime Anna Netrebko?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 05:09 PM

Thanks for the heads-up, Maggie!

I checked our local listings and came up madder than a boiled owl!

Both of our local PBS affiliates, KCTS in Seattle and KBTC in Tacoma are in the middle of their all-too-frequent beg-a-thons, which, within recent years, seem to occur every couple of months and go on for WEEKS! Current fare consists of two hours of Elvis Presley singing gospel songs, an Ed Sullivan Show retrospective, a guitarist who does his damnedest to play flamenco with a PICK while backed by drums and string bass, and, I swear, the fortieth showing of "Voice of an Angel," little Jackie Evancho, who is a lovely child and who indeed sings like an angel, and who is being grossly exploited just the way Charlotte Church was (this kind of callous exploitation that all too often burns out potentially great talent before it has a chance to mature causeth me to lament loudly and rend my garments!), plus two-hour lectures on how to keep your brain healthy well into your nineties, along with frequent breaks offering you premiums for contributing, including a DVD of the program you are watching, which has been broadcast three times within the past two weeks!!

Which is why, instead of watching television lately, Barbara and I have been watching selected movies that we get from NetFlix and the Seattle Public Library.

Looking at the upcoming schedules of both stations—no Wagner in evidence!!

Seattle Opera put itself on the international map a few decades back when general manager Speight Jenkins stuck his neck out and mounted a local Wagner Festival with all four of the Ring operas. All four operas within a week! Complete with a mix of internationally known opera stars and some very good local talent (Babara Coffin, with whom I went to high school, was one of the Valkyries). Barbara (my Barbara) and I took in all four operas. The singing was great and the staging was spectacular! The four operas lasted a total of twenty hours! After four evenings, we were rump-sprung from sitting, but our ears were all a-glow!

The response was far greater than anybody anticipated. People came from all over the country—and from as far away as Australia—to take in Seattle Opera's Wagner Festival. And they're still running it every couple of years, I think, along with their regular schedule of five different opera productions per year (each opera given about five times over a couple of week period).

If this new Ring Cycle doesn't show up on our local PBS affiliates' schedules right soon, I'm liable to write a few letters!!!

Don (snarl!!) Firth

P. S. Bonzo3legs, take a listen to the tenor-baritone duet au fond du temple saint from "The Pearl Fishers," by George Bizet (who also wrote "Carmen") and try to tell me that opera is "hideous and pretentious." (Concert presentation: CLICKY)).

Or French soprano Natalie Dessay doing a bravura job of singing "Olympia's Song" from Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffmann. Dessay is portraying Olympia, a wind-up singing and dancing doll built by the toy maker Copelius, whom Hoffmann, for some reason, thinks is a real woman and he falls in love with her! I've seen Natalie Dessay in a number of performances, and although she can by very serious when the role calls for it, she has a real flair for comedy. (CLICKY #2).

Or Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing "Eri Tu?" from Verdi's "The Masked Ball," when his character thinks his wife and his best friend are having an affair. Hvorostovsky's voice is like dark chocolate! (CLICKY #3).

Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelungs" is based on Norse Sagas. It's folklore!

In fact, for those who say that opera plots are "stupid," I would invite them to take a good look at the plots of their favorite ballads! I would go so far as to say that ballads are "mini-operas" and operas are "ballads on steroids."

Rarely do the composers actually write the plots of their operas. They take them from plays or novels, get a "librettist" to set the work into some manner of verse to which music can be written, then they set about actually writing the opera. "Carmen" came from a novel by Prosper Merimee. "Rigoletto" was a novel first, by Victor Hugo. "Il Trovatore" (the Troubadour) was written by a Spanish playwright and made into an opera by Giuseppe Verdi. "Lucia di Lammermoor" was based on Sir Walter Scott's "The Bride of Lammermoor." In some productions, the male members of the cast are running around on the stage in kilts.

And Elmore is right. An opera is a multi-media production. It's like paying to put on a play, complete with costumes and sets, plus not just actors, but people who can sing, and sing very well, often in foreign languages, and with voices big enough to make themselves heard over a full symphony orchestra, plus a whole symphony orchestra! Mounting an opera production is a mighty costly affair. Opera companies keep the ticket prices as low as they dare, because they WANT people to come to their productions.

And for each opera they put on, Seattle Opera manages to pack a 2,500 seat opera house for five nights running. The tickets are pricy, yes, but if they are to stay in business at all, much less make a profit, opera companies are pretty marginal operations. The idea that they price tickets high to keep opera "elitist," is just plain dumb!

(Where the hell do people get some of the nitwit ideas they get?)


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 05:14 PM

I don't mind a bit of Cav and Pag - or some Puccini. And I quite like Carmen. But I'm not an addict.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 06:08 PM

This thread is about opera. It isn't about the people who don't like it or the reasons they think it sucks.

Don, I'm going to try recording each night and if they turn out well I'll burn them to disks and send you copies.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 06:15 PM

Oh Gawd another tin eared comment about opera singers - the operatic style is perfectly natural for Italians - Welsh and other nationalities with a tradition of singing Perhaps we should get some opera singers ie to comment on the tuneless rubbish served up by some called folk singers.

Opera btw covers over 400 years of musical tradition and many different styles


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 06:18 PM

Bless you, Maggie!!

Re:   ". . . twisting their vocal chords in an attempt to produce sounds that have no connection to the real world."

Not everyone can be an opera singer. First, a person has to be born with a potential for a pretty big voice (often needing to be heard over a full symphony orchestra, remember). Then, they have to learn how to use that voice in the most efficient way possible. Good, solid breath support (I've heard many folkies whose breath support is practically non-existent), and placement, which is a matter of learning to use the body's natural resonators, which requires some serious concentration early on, until it becomes "second nature."

And here, too, many folkies haven't a clue as to matters of placement. You can hear it especially when they try to sing loud. It's a BLAT rather than a musical sounding tone. Rock singers are especially prone to this.

And without good breath support and good placement, one runs the risk of doing permanent damage to one's vocal cords, especially if one sings a lot. Or tries to sing VERY LOUD. Or tries to sing in a range which their voice doesn't like. All of these things I've heard most folkies do.

And believe me, if you sing regularly, say off and on for five hours an evening, three evenings a week, or sing in a large auditorium with no amplification, you can burn your voice out very quickly if you are not using it efficiently.

I took voice lessons early on—even before I got interested in folk music—so I learned how to use breath support and correct placement. But I don't sound much like an opera singer. Nevertheless, I'm eighty-one years old and my singing voice is still strong and healthy.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: katlaughing
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 06:27 PM

I don't remember anyone dissing opera when we had this wonderful thread about BEER'S NEPHEW singing on Canada's Got Talent.

Don, thanks for the links.

Here's one in English, The Ballad of Baby Doe, based on real people and events in Leadville, Colorado in the late 1880s. It is a delightful opera. Central City Opera put it on this summer. This recording and video is not the best, but you get the idea. The whole opera is available from that link. The LPs I have of it feature Beverly Sills as Baby Doe, recorded in the 50s.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 10:25 PM

The series that has started tonight is wonderful and was filmed in late 2010. Perhaps it has been broadcast before, here or elsewhere, but if so, I missed it. I'm enjoying it now.

Don, you forgot that Opera companies also have dancers on some occasions. My dad sent me money for my birthday the first year I was living in New York City and told me not to use it for subway tokens or groceries, I was to do something I couldn't otherwise afford. So I bought a ticket on the grand tier to the gala performance of Smetana's The Bartered Bride. A comic opera with everything Don listed PLUS dancers. :)

My roommate went along, she was able to get a much less expensive ticket in the nosebleed seats. We were dressed up more than usual, and as I paused to shift my long skirt as we walked up the stairs to the mezzanine, Kris bumped into me and I in turn bumped into an older man standing with a few others on the stairs.

At that moment people started applauding. I looked down at the entering crowds and they were looking up. I looked up at the various balconies above us and they were looking down. And then I looked at the man I'd just walked into. It was Rudolf Bing. The next day I called mom and dad and told them "Guess who I ran into!"

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 11:14 PM

The performances are for sale on DVD from the Met.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 11:22 PM

My younger brother likes opera, so I bet he's recording this.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 11 Sep 12 - 11:46 PM

SRS, thank you for letting me know about PBS broadcasting The Ring Cycle. I was able to see the first two operas in HD at a movie theatre but could not see the last two operas. I have to say that I found the set to be distracting. I was always wondering how it would be twisted and turned next.

Elmore, I think Anna Netrebko is a delight. I also like Natalie Dessay and several others.

For anyone who thinks opera is too expensive, you might see if they are shown in HD in any movie theater near you. They are shown in many countries, not just the US. A link to that info is here. Even though it says US, on that page there are places to click for info for Canada and other countries. I usually go to the "Encores" which cost less than the "live" broadcasts. And yes, there are subtitles--even for the operas sung in English!
http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/unitedstates.aspx

The "Encores" cost about as much as most folk music concerts where I live. If that's too expensive, many are shown on PBS. In fact PBS designated a recent weekend as Opera Bash and showed many of the operas I had seen during the last few years. However, the reason I pay to see them at the movie theater is because when I watch at home I am too easily distracted. Also, I have a very small-screen TV and the subtitles are hard to read unless I sit very close to it.

Also you can see some operas for free on DVDs that most libraries own. Those are often not recent productions, library budgets being what they are.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: scouse
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 05:35 AM

And there's beautiful Women as well in opera Observe.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf42IP__ipw.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 10:54 AM

Singers come in all weights and sizes. Since I hear opera most often on the radio (Saturday afternoons are standard for the Metropolitan Opera and other company broadcasts) I have to say that they're all handsome/beautiful!

Even if I don't know the story or get the words, there's something very satisfying in working around the house or out in the garage or greenhouse (I have radios everywhere) and letting the Saturday opera drift through the house and yard. I can't ever answer the opera quiz, but I'm interested in the answers.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Newport Boy
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 01:12 PM

Re the comment about seat prices for opera - don't take Covent Garden or the Met as typical. Welsh National Opera are among the best companies and they have one of the very best theatres at Wales Millennium Centre. Tickets for the current production of La Boheme are priced at £5 to £40. I've been to folk concerts with higher prices, and I wish I could watch a Welsh Rugby International for £40!

We belong to an opera group, watching DVD on a big screen. Our programme for this year includes Puccini, Mozart, Jancek, Gershwin, Mascagni, Ravel, Verdi, Donizetti, Giordano & Mussorgsky (Boris Godunov - one of my favourites).

BTW, I liken Wagner to a poor fruit cake - you have to plough through a lot of stodge to find the sultanas!

Phil


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 03:13 PM

Thanks for the DVD link. I like to sit back and watch at my own pace, especially if the work is a long one.

The Ring set design by Robert Lepage, the Canadian Cirque du Soleil director, and his team. The set weighs in at 45 tons ("Valhalla Machine).". Design and modeling took place at their Québec City Studios.

It will be interesting to see the supporting singers and dancers actually flying (in harness).

I collect mostly baroque opera, and have dvds of most of the available Handel, Montiverdi, Vivaldi, Lully, et al., but I probably will buy this new Ring.

The Santa Fe Opera (http://www.santafeopera.org) has an imaginative building, open on two sides; one can watch the sun set over the Jemez and rolling country to the west if one seats early. The other side has large wind screens that are adjustable.
The seat backs have a small screen on which one can follow the libreto, in English or the original language.
The productions (in the summer) usually include a couple of old favorites, plus ones that are not well-known.
If one is able to attend the Santa Fe Opera, tickets must be obtained well in advance; people come from many areas to the country to experience the productions.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 04:01 PM

Right, Maggie, when I was enumerating the factors that make the production costs of an opera pretty expensive, I missed that it often calls for dancers. A lot of French audiences early on didn't feel that an opera was complete unless it had a dance sequence in it. "Carmen," for example, often has a flamenco dance sequence in the act that takes place in Lillas Pastia's taverna, where smugglers and gypsies hung out.

This slopped over into Italian opera as well, partly because Italian opera composers wanted to be sure that their operas went over well in Paris as well as Milan. Hence, the dance sequence in the first act of "La Traviata," the Triumphal March followed by the Egyptian dance in "Aida," and so on. The trick was working the dance sequence into the plot so it seemed natural.

There are a couple of stories about Anna Netrebko and Natalie Dessay that are kinda cute:

The story goes that at a fairly tender age, Anna Netrebko was determined to be an opera singer. While taking lessons and studying up a storm at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, she felt she absolutely had to be IN an opera house, to soak up the ambiance. So at the age of 20, she got a job as part of the crew who cleaned the Mariinsky Theatre opera house.

Then, the manager declared auditions, so Anna signed up. After she sang her audition, conductor Valery Gergiev, who was attending the auditions, said, "You look familiar. Have I met you before?" To which she responded, "Yes. I'm the cleaning lady."

Gergiev became her vocal mentor, and under his guidance, she made her operatic debut at the Mariinsky Theater at age 22, as Susanna in "The Marriage of Figaro." Lead role! The rest is history.

For those benighted souls who think all operatic sopranos are nothing but very loud piles of lard (CLICKY), take a peek at :   Anna Netrebko!! (Yum!!)

Natalie Dessay (born in Lyon, France, original spelling of her last name was "Dessaix," and anticipating that non-French folks would screw up the pronunciation, changed it to the more phonetic "Dessay") knew from an early age that she wanted to be on stage. She took a shine to ballet, but soon discovered that she was (in her own words) "a klutz!" So she took a shot at acting. People kept remarking about her voice, so she started studying singing at the Conservatoire de Bordeaux, entered a singing competition, and was awarded a scholarship to the Paris Opera's Ecole d'Art Lyrique. She won more competitions, and was approached by a number of impresarios.

One of her first roles was as Olympia, the wind-up doll in "Tales of Hoffmann" (see my link in my first post above). Good actress, along with a top-drawer singing voice and a distinct flair for comedy. Cute, too: (CLICKY).

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 04:04 PM

I've enjoyed Wagner since junior high band days (c. 1961) when we performed the band overtures to "Die Meistersinger", "Lohengrin", "Parsifal" and others. Found (at a church rummage sale) and cherished a copy of Milton Cross's "Stories of the Great Operas".

Also enjoy Richard Strauss.

A good vocal performance (oh, especially of "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers") will make every hair on your body stand on end.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 06:01 PM

I, too, Linn. That duet from "The Pearl Fishers" has to be one of the true gems of opera.

Seattle Opera did "The Pearl Fishers" a couple of seasons ago, but, worse luck, I wasn't able to go. I did hear the full length opera once, played one evening on a local classical music station. One thing that struck me about the opera was the uncommon genius of George Bizet, most famous for his opera "Carmen." "The Pearl Fishers" takes place in Ceylon (now, Sri Lanka), and two of the pearl fishers fall in love at first with a Brahman priestess they see "in the depths of the temple." They have a falling out over her, then, realizing that, as a priestess, neither can have her. Then, they swear eternal friendship in the famous duet.

It turns out, however, that. . . .

To me, one of the ingenious things about the musical score of "The Pearl Fishers" is that, here we are with men who make their living out of the sea and with the sea itself ever-present. Almost all of the music in the opera has a sort of "undulating" quality to it. It permeates the entire opera. Like the ever-present waves of the sea. Kind of subtle, but there! Amazing piece of work! Bravo, Bizet!

Another tenor-baritone duet that I find stirring it the one in Verdi's "Don Carlo."

This duet is in the opera's second act. Don Carlo, son of Spain's King Philip II, is desolate over the fact that the woman he loves is now married to his father!   Carlo's friend Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa, has just returned from Flanders. He asks Prince Carlo to help him ease the oppression and suffering of the Flemish people. Carlo reveals his secret: that he is in love with his stepmother, whom he met and fell in love with before her arranged marriage to his father. Rodrigo advises him to leave Spain and to go to Flanders. The two men vow to be friends forever in the duet Dio, "Dio, che nell' alma infondere" and strive for the freedom of the Flemish people.

Stirring!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 07:34 PM

Somewhere on a tape I have Jerry Hadley in duet with someone whose name escapes me in a RADIO performance of "Au fond du temple saint". It was absolutely amazing. That's the one that gives me goose bumps. And, I gather, it was never formally recorded (at least I can't find a recording of it). I got it from a friend. I've placed it on a tape with a number of other recordings of "Au fond du temple saint" (all I can lay my hands on) but right now I have no idea where the tape is.

I do have a recording (on LP) of the entire opera and a CD recording of Jerry Hadley (and someone not the someone in the radio performance) on a CD of duets.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 07:37 PM

That CD recording is of Jerry Hadley and Thomas Hampson. Wish I could remember who the other performance was with.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 07:45 PM

I don't believe this -- I just found it at YouTube. Looks like it was posted about a month ago.

Jerry Hadley and Alan Titus in 1986 -- New York City Opera Orchestra.

Jerry Hadley and Alan Titus, 1986

You have no idea how this has made my day!

Linn


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 10:20 PM

That is a coincidence, and a nice one, too. Thank you for posting the link.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Songwronger
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 10:37 PM

A friend of mine went to Sicily a couple of years ago, and I suggested she go to the opera while she was in Palermo. She scoffed. A matinee would have been $20 or so. I looked it up later on the internet and they were performing something by Rossini. $20 to hear an opera by Rossini in the Teatro Massimo (incredible building, from pictures I've seen), but she passed on the opportunity. She loves football games, though. Sit through hours of a game with atom-sized figures running around on a field, but no Rossini. She looked at me like I was a toad when I suggested the opera.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 01:40 AM

I'm enjoying this production. I think it gets a bit longer every night, so it's a good thing that it ends overnight on Friday, sometime before dawn . . . and I don't have to get up for work. ;-)

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 06:56 AM

It's a myth that opera is impossibly expensive. Yes, they GO UP to daft prices, but they start at cheaper prices than some cinema tickets. Go to the Covent Garden website and look: their ticket prices start at £8.

How much is a ticket to a football match? How much is a ticket to see Lady Gaga at Wembley Arena? How much are two tickets to the cinema in Central London?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 07:02 AM

Re. Wagner, I'm not personally too keen on his music. I vastly prefer Strauss. Find Wagner a bit repetitive.

However I enjoyed watching the first part of the ring cycle on screen at Ritzy Picturehouse cinema last year. The scene with the dwarf and the teasing rhinemaiden is seminal: definitely the most powerful part (both dramatically and musically).

I was subjected to a performance of Wagner's "Lohengrin" at Covent Garden a year or two ago. Now that is a godawful and ridiculous piece of work. It's totally fascistic. Hitler was a big fan of it and you can see why. While watching it, I was thinking you could stage a tongue-in-cheek version of it that would be magnificent (satirising the idea of the charismatic totalitarian leader). But it kind of already is it's own parody.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 10:34 AM

Attn: Chantey Lass Thanks for pointing out that the "live" movie theater productions by the Met are available in countries other thanthe good old USA. Careless of me not to have noticed.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 10:43 AM

In this version of the operas Eric Owens as Alberich is a fairly sympathetic character. I think that makes the whole thing much better - if he was just an ugly little git from beginning to end it might be easier to accept or justify Wotan's activity.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Will Fly
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 11:06 AM

Seeing opera live can be a marvellous experience - and what wonderful tunes! From 'heavyweights' like the works of Wagner to the light and comic operas of Gilbert & Sullivan.

You may not care for the artificiality and stage artifice of some of it, but hundreds of the tunes - both instrumental and vocal are absolutely glorious. "Au Fond Du Temple Saint" has already been mentioned. The ones I love are too numerous to mention - "Oh Celeste Aida" - "Che Gelida Manina" - the Prelude to Act 3 of "Traviata" - "The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze" - "M'Appari" - "Di Quella Pira" - "Va Pensiero" - the Prelude to Act 1 of "Traviata" - etc., etc.

Fabulous stuff. And if you haven't heard of the tunes I've listed above, do a little research and have a little listen...


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Will Fly
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 11:11 AM

Forgot to add: On a Wagner note, listen to the Overture to "Rienzi" - early Wagner and an excellent piece of music.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 11:15 AM

LOL. Bat Goddess, I was literally ready to post that link to youtube for you. Same one.:-)


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 02:56 PM

I will have to buy the set.
Stayed up to watch Die Walküre and didn't make it to the end (2:30AM on the Spokane station). Too late for me.

Watched "Tales of Hoffman" Les Contes d'H...)" again recently. Always enjoyed this one, and the Barcarolle is an earworm I don't mind.

Hear Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca sing it. Youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuOM4CMq7uI

Caballé and Horne also on Youtube, and the young and beautiful Lordeschu's (sp?).


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Tootler
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 04:09 PM

While I think his language was a little OTT, I can sympathise with B3L's feelings.

I find that, on the whole, Opera leaves me cold. I do not find the singing style particularly attractive but that's simply a matter of personal taste.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 04:11 PM

Attn: SRS I agree with you about Eric Owens. I have some reservations about the sets, but not the singers.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 04:21 PM

Speaking of "Tales of Hoffmann. . . ."

"The Tales of Hoffmann" is a kind of weird opera, and I can't say that I really understand the motivation of the villain other than just being evil, but he tries to get Hoffmann to fall in love with various women, then works to frustrate him, even to the point of causing the death of one of the women. Nevertheless, it has some gorgeous music in it.

In 1951, a movie version of "Tales of Hoffmann" hit the art theaters. In a way, it tended to emphasize the convoluted plot over the music, but the music is definitely there.

One of Hoffmann's lady-loves, the ballerina, Stella, is portrayed by English dancer Moira Shearer, probably best known for her starring in an earlier movie about the world of ballet, "The Red Shoes." Moira Shearer does the "Olympia" character dance sequence (with someone else dubbing in the "Olympia's Song" part of it), which is beautifully done, but it doesn't approach the humor of Natalie Dessay's goofy version (posted above).

But in the movie, Moira Shearer and male dancer Edmond Audran perform a dance sequence called "The Enchanted Dragonfly." The villain (with the sinister eyes!) appears early in the clip, once again hell-bent on frustrating Hoffmann by intercepting a note to Hoffmann from Stella.

But does that woman have a bod, or does that woman have a bod!!?

NetFlix lists the 1951 movie.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 07:03 PM

A lot of opera makes MUCH more sense when you see it as intended, in a full staging. Wagner's timescale doesn't seem at all self-indulgent when the story's unfolding in front of you on stage, and Verdi's big setpieces for chorus and soloists don't seem over the top.

I could never make anything of Richard Strauss until I saw Ariadne auf Naxos on stage. It was mindblowing to see how all that intellectual cleverness, weird ironic humour, romantically self-parodying music, beautiful-but-not-quite-what-they-seemed set designs, mythological references and simple human emotion all fitted together in one coherent art work.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Sep 12 - 09:04 PM

Yes, full staging is best, but for those of us out in the "sticks," playing the DVD's on a modern TV often is the best we can do. I have some operas on cd, but a lot is missed.

The BBC Music Magazine reviews the new ones and that is a help, but I don't always agree. I think some of the new staging and story modernization is silly or goes too far, but the reviewer may have 4-5 starred it.

I sometimes end up with 2-3 versions.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 12:04 PM

Getting all of this in one fell-swoop is one thing, but doing it over a long national holiday so no one has to get up the next morning would be helpful! I was nodding off as Siegfried and Wotan spoke and fought at the bottom of Brunnhilde's mountain, but perked up for the finale.

Wagner really did parse the issues in these - stating Fricka's case to Wotan as to why Sigmund must die, and then how Brunnhilde brought Wotan around to her way of thinking when she was placed asleep on the mountain - with the onscreen captions you could follow the progress and logic of the argument. I think the captions make all of the difference, even though I typically read the synopsis of each opera before I sit down to watch it. (Anyone else have the old books like The Concert Companion Wikipedia takes care of that research now. I have two or three of those older books from my parents' houses.)

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 12:18 PM

The Ring really is a development from old sagas.
I would like someone to point out to me the anti-semitism or Fascism in the work. I can't see it.

The staging is excellent; LePage and the Cirque people did something that focuses on the singers as well as adding to the visual effect. I watched Siegfried, but nodded at times, so missed some of the connectios.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 02:49 PM

Got it!!

I got one of the regular monthly e-mails from KCTS, my local PBS station this morning containing highlights of their up-coming programming now that their seemingly perpetual pledge break is winding down.

They'll be running "The Ring Cycle" beginning at 1:00 p.m. this coming Sunday afternoon, then running the next three operas on consecutive Sundays.

Not the most convenient time for me, but wotthehell, I'll manage.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 02:59 PM

In 1850, Wagner wrote "Das Judenthum in der Musik", which re-stated all the old(even at that time) anti-semitic cliches. Some say he didn't really mean it, and wrote it because he was jealous of his old friends Meyerbeer and Mendelsohn.

Be that as it may, the Nazis embraced his ideas, and, even more, they loved his music, and the nationalistic ideas that it embodied. They played it incessantly. Even at funerals. As a result, many Jews get very uncomfortable at the mention of Wagner. Can you blame them?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 04:08 PM

The fact that Wagner's operas use German myth doesn't make them nationalistic, any more than Britten's Peter Grimes or Philip Glass's 10,000 Airplanes on the Roof are (both use stories local to where the composers lived).

In fact the only one of his operas with a storyline out of conservative ideology is his first big success, Rienzi, based on a novel set in Italy by an Englishman and first promoted by a French Jew. (Hitler seems to have liked it, for reasons which nobody can make sense of).

There certainly were nationalistic operas in the 19th century - many of Verdi's and most of Smetana's. Verdi became a hero to the Italian Fascists. Wagner wasn't in the same line of business. You could argue that Verdi had it coming because he was so explicitly political, but not Wagner.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 05:46 PM

Verdi was, indeed, political, but there is no evidence that he was anti-Semitic. Nor was he, in any way, a Fascist. His particular cause was the freedom of Italy from the domination of the Austrian Empire—a cause very dear to the hearts of most Italians in the mid-1800s.

I can't remember offhand what city it occurred in, but sometime after the premier of Verdi's opera "Nabucco" (Nebuchadnezzar), a crowd of about a thousand Italians gathered in the city square spontaneously broke into one of the choral numbers in the opera: va pensiero, the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves," lamenting for their lost country.

It scared the socks off the Austrian occupiers!

Verdi was popular in his own right, but his name was seen everywhere, graffiti scrawled on walls. "Viva Verdi!" This appeared to be a great appreciation for the opera composer, but in addition, what the graffiti conveyed—

Verdi's name served as an acronym for "Victor Emmanuel, re d'Italia!" "Victor Emmanuel, king of Italy!" Italians wanted their own rightful king, not some Austrian overlord.

When the crowd gathered in the city square, the Austrian cavalry was there, sabers drawn, ready to ride out and quell the rioters. But they didn't riot. They sang!

CLICK.

Don Firth

P. S. The audience at this particular production kinda liked it. They insisted that they sing it again.

I kinda choke up whenever I hear this.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 06:54 PM

I'm glad to see you'll get to watch this, Don. Be sure also to watch the first 2-hour program that gives an account of how they built this set and collected the singers for the performances. I missed taping part of that one.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Joe_F
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 08:32 PM

In occasional dips into popular culture, I have noticed that opera seems to be, among the vulgar, the *opposite* of rock and roll. Why is that?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 09:29 PM

I didn't want to do this, Jack, but you made me.

Here is a pedant explanation of the manner in which Nationalism was embodied in Herr Wagner work, and it's purpose, followed by a link to the Master's own rather overbearing essay on the matter. I don't recommend it, but to each his own.

Notes on German Unification
The "Spirit" of German Nationalism: Richard Wagner and the Ring Cycle Operas
Richard Wagner (1813-83) is one of the most controversial composers of the nineteenth century. His talent and place as one of the great romantic composers is often overshadowed by his virulent anti-Semitism, having claimed that Jews were "the evil conscience of our modern civilization." He was also an ardent German nationalist. The Ring Cycle operas, perhaps his greatest works, were composed and first staged in 1876, shortly after Germany unified. They were intended to develop a mythic national history for the new empire, which had no actual political history on which to construct a national identity. Early in his career, Wagner identified with the socialist movement and supported the Revolution of 1848 in Germany. Following the 1848 upheavals, Wagner penned his essay, "Art and Revolution," in which he argued that the task of the artist is to effect political change through artistic expression. The career and music of Richard Wagner offer a unique interdisciplinary approach to the romantic aspect of German nationalism. The full text of Wagner's essay is available online.

Wagner's "Art and Revolution"


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 09:33 PM

That last was me.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Sep 12 - 11:47 PM

I just pulled up the KCTS listing for Sunday's broadcast of the first opera!

Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel as "Wotan," the boss of the Norse gods!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Bert
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 12:31 AM

It's kinda weird. I don't like opera but I like musicals. And I really don't know the difference between them.

Also, I don't like classical music, but the times that I've been to the symphony here in Colorado Springs, I have enjoyed it. Not for the music but for sharing the joy with the musicians.

I guess it's me that's kinda weird.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 01:21 AM

The line between musicals and opera can be pretty fuzzy, Bert. For example, "Porgy and Bess" was initially regarded as a musical. But Europeans, quite familiar with opera, unlike most Americans, regarded it as an opera. Now, even American opera companies consider it to be an opera rather than a "just" a musical.

Here's a thought experiment for you:   take one of your favorite musicals and imagine that you were hearing it, not in English, but in French, Italian, or German.

Some operas, such as "The Barber of Seville" or "Die Fledermaus" or "Don Pasquale" are comedies, and a real riot. Situations and bits of business can get real belly laughs out of an audience.

Actually, a musical like Bernstein's "West Side Story" (spoiler alert! Tragic ending) is darned ckose to an opera, and like "Porgy and Bess," may someday be generally regarded as one.

Very fuzzy line.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 02:49 AM

Well, the fourth and final opera has finished. And I'm so impressed with the stamina of these people - some of them spent an incredible amount of time on stage.

I've read a few reviews, but I don't have the experience of so many live operas that I can claim any expertise in comparing and contrasting performances. It was wonderful!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 02:50 AM

Operas are written by classical composers and performed by Opera Companies, musicals are written by popular composers and lyricists, and performed on Broadway or in the West End. Except when Porgy and Bess is at the Metropolitan Opera, and La Boheme is on Broadway. At which time you just smile and hope no one asks you about Operettas.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 06:58 AM

"The fact that Wagner's operas use German myth doesn't make them nationalistic, any more than Britten's Peter Grimes or Philip Glass's 10,000 Airplanes on the Roof are (both use stories local to where the composers lived).

In fact the only one of his operas with a storyline out of conservative ideology is his first big success, Rienzi, based on a novel set in Italy by an Englishman and first promoted by a French Jew. (Hitler seems to have liked it, for reasons which nobody can make sense of)."

I refer you to my post above, about "Lohengrin". Hitler loved that one too, and it's obvious why when you read the synopsis, or watch the opera. It's exactly the kind of narrative a fascist would love: the tale of a political coup that is supposedly legitimized by fate, led by a strong hero "destined" to lord it over everyone else, sweeping away the weak and ineffectual.

Pomposity (and, hence, ridiculousness) runs through almost every line of its libretto. The music's pretty crass too. I can't imagine how anyone could stage it without it seeming comical. (Which was certainly the case for the Covent Garden production I saw a year or two ago)


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 11:21 AM

This thread has begun to exceed my intellectual level. I enjoy the Ring Cycle greatly, but feel that due to his innate anti-semitism, and despite the fact that he had influential Jewish friends, Wagner depicted both Alberich and Mime as having stereotypical Jewish charecteristics. However that's just me.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 11:37 AM

Elmore, one of the great things about Mudcat is that you can learn new things. Stick around! And guests, please use a consistent name when you post so we know who we're talking to as the conversation progresses. Thanks.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 11:55 AM

Perhaps the first thing I could learn is how to spell characteristics.(see above)


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 12:42 PM

I've enjoyed Wagner's music since childhood -- long time before I knew of any controversy or non-musical objections to it, before I learned that Hitler liked it. I don't think it's even necessary for me to say I loathe Hitler and his beliefs. (But I DID have a great-grandfather return to Germany because he liked Kaiser Bill...he died on the boat on the way back.)

The first inkling I had of any controversy was when the organist at the Lutheran church I attended (I was maybe 10 at the time) refused to play the Wedding March ("Bridal Chorus" "Treulich geführt" -- usually referred to as "Here Comes the Bride") from Lohengrin because Wagner was an immoral man and, among other things, stole his best friend's wife. (That whole scandal was much more complicated, as I learned when I was older.)

Wagner was a German nationalist with socialist leanings (socialism is the exact opposite opposite of Nazism) who worked for the unification of Germany. He held some social views which, while I disagree with them, were common in the era in which he lived.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 02:59 PM

Jack, just read this again, because it explains the situation. Whether you see it or not is really beside the point. It's kind of like the tempered scale in that way:-)

"He was also an ardent German nationalist. The Ring Cycle operas, perhaps his greatest works, were composed and first staged in 1876, shortly after Germany unified. They were intended to develop a mythic national history for the new empire, which had no actual political history on which to construct a national identity"


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 05:25 PM

During my career as a radio announcer, I worked for a time at a classical music station.

One afternoon the telephone rang, and it was an outraged listener. What caused his outrage was that I had played some "Nazi music!"

It turned out that just before he called, I had played something by Beethoven (one of the "Fidelio" overtures, I believe). And Beethoven (along with Wagner), he informed me, was one of Hitler's favorite composers.

I noted that the man had a distinct German accent, and his voice sounded like he was an older man, so I deduced that he'd probably had a rough time of it some decades back.

We chatted awhile, and I think I managed to convince him that it was not Beethoven's fault that Hitler liked his music, and that if we refused to listen to a piece of music because someone we dislike or disapprove of (no matter how justified we may be in our dislike or disapproval) likes it, we'd wind up with very little good music to listen to.

Beethoven was a surly s.o.b. and a very difficult person to deal with, but then Schubert was constantly broke, so he often ducked out of an apartment before the rent was due, and some believe that Mozart actually died of a venereal disease because he was an egregious womanizer.

Yet, they all wrote great music.

He was a bit mollified and said that perhaps he was allowing his memories of Hitler to rob him of much enjoyment, and that he would have a hard think on the matter.

I hesitate to bring this up because I don't want to divert the thread to a different discussion, but the principle is the same. Let me ask this:   Do you like Bob Dylan and his music? Why—considering that, early on, he lied his face off in a radio interview with Cynthia Gooding about who he was, where he came from, what he had done in his life (borrowing heavily from Woody Guthrie's autobiography), and—he owed a great deal to Joan Baez, who took him around on HER concert tours, introduced him and had him sing (and chewed the audience out when some of them booed him), and generally promoted his career. And then, when he finally got a concert tour of his own, he asked Joan to come with him. BUT, she found out, he didn't want her on stage with him, he wanted her to stay in the hotel room so she'd be handy for him he'd finished and wanted a little—recreation.

That kind of a person. And you still like his music?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 05:59 PM

The Ring Cycle operas, perhaps his greatest works, were composed and first staged in 1876, shortly after Germany unified

He started the story outline in 1848, composed it through the years to 1857, put it aside for 12 years and finished it in 1869. The premiere of the complete cycle was in 1876, but sponsored by Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, who was not exactly motivated by bourgeois nationalism.

A nationalist reading of The Ring is way too reductive. The myths he used are found all over the Teutonic world, most explicitly in Scandinavia. There are no German placenames in it except for a mention of the Rhine. It just doesn't make any sort of statement about how Germans ought to pull together, in the way Verdi's operas do for Italians.

You might be able to argue that one initial impetus was the revolutions of 1848, but any political content got so transmogrified as the work progressed that no simple slogans are discernible in it.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 06:34 PM

As Linn observed, "that whole scandal was much more complicated" - all of them. Wagner was an egomaniac, not really political, even less so than Dylan. But he had a great instinct for dramatic constellations and developments. If required, he would even sacrifice his theories for them.

Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert were very respectable persons on the whole, as far as I know from the usual biogrphies. I think it was Schubert who is known to have died of Syphilis, caught from "all-inclusive housemaids".


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 06:39 PM

Schubert was also a paedophile.

And more relevant to this thread, a lousy opera composer.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 07:28 PM

Yeah, Beethoven was a nasty s.o.b. who had trouble getting dates. Schuman supposedly died of syphilis and was probably manic depressive. Did any of these guys lead happy lives?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 07:33 PM

Tat's Robert Schumann, Clara's husband.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 15 Sep 12 - 09:31 PM

I think the point is that Wagner wanted to make those Teutonic myths Germanic myths, and create a sense that there was a deep, traditional, historic culture that united all those states that had been floating around loose since Napoleon had destroyed the Holy Roman Empire and subsequently was destroyed himself.

To be cruelly honest, I don't much care for Wagner, and think he made a mess of the Nieblungenlied and Parsival and harbor the suspicion that part of the reason Ludwig II was done in had to do with "artistic differences" about that sort of thing.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: framus
Date: 16 Sep 12 - 04:47 PM

Somebody famous said "Wagner has some WONDERFUL moments,unfortunately he has several terrible half hours!"
What relevance has Wagner's, generally acknowledged, anti semitism, to the quality of his music? Or the fact that the operas themselves contain any facistic tenor. He didn't write them, although he may have interpreted their meaning. I don't know, did he write the libretti?
For those who are fazed by the sheer size and power of the Ring, have a listen to the Siegfried Idyll, originally written for Cosima on the birth of his son.
Just a thought!
Davy.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Sep 12 - 05:08 PM

If there is a message in the "Ring," it's that greed, skullduggery, and the lust for power ain't good. It brings about the destruction of Valhalla.

I don't see anything anti-Semitic, or fascistic there.

Don Firth

P. S. Watching it right now. Bryn Terfel makes a fantastic Wotan!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 Sep 12 - 05:40 PM

did he write the libretti?

Yes - it was VERY important to him that he built the whole shebang himself. The story is his own redaction of the mediaeval sources. Look up "Gesamtkunstwerk".

He was probably the best own-libretto writer among all opera composers. Look at Michael Tippett or Harry Partch for some thoroughly cringeworthy moments in the text. The music covers these but at times you'd rather it was being sung in Uzbek. Wagner never sounds silly.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 16 Sep 12 - 05:43 PM

von Schiller and Goerthe wrote a lot of librettos - or perhaps they wrote the original stories turned into librettos?

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 16 Sep 12 - 11:27 PM

The only Harry Partch opera I know of is this---

Excerpts from Harry Partch's Oedipus


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 05:04 AM

Partch's other major opera is Delusion of the Fury. I've got the LP set that has the full libretto.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 12:31 PM

My daughter, going through my lps, found my copy of "Tremonisha," Scott Joplin's short opera, by the Houston Opera (1976 DG recording). It is OK, but the singers, except for one of the conjurors (can't remember), tend to forget the content and give the characters full, Italian-style operatic vocalization.

It has been redone, New World Records, but I haven't heard this new recording.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 01:50 PM

I haven't heard that, apparently your LP is a rather rare article. I found a clip on line but for some reason, couldn't create a link. I thought it was good.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 02:38 PM

I lived in Temple, TX, from 1982-89, and around 1983 I went to a local concert set up to highlight the operatic couple, he was from Temple, who had performed two major roles in Tremonisha at the Met. I know there was a cast recording of the Met performance because I stumbled upon it a year later when I was in Arizona for a seasonal job. A fellow employee, who lived the rest of the year in Houston, had it and I heard it at her house.

In Temple it was a strange concert, to my northern ears, because most of the people who attended responded to operatic performances as if they were in church and shouted back up to the performers and swayed and clapped and shouted "Amen!" regularly. They were also mostly Texan (as in "southern") African Americans. I went expecting an opera-loving crowd who would listen and clap at the appropriate times. I hadn't been in Texas long, so it was an eye-opener.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Sep 12 - 04:41 PM

The Houston Opera performance on DG has been reissued.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 18 Sep 12 - 05:00 PM

Wagner's antisemitism was frank, revolting and personal (he was scathing about Mendelssohn, for example). To him, Jews had no essence of the German spirit (how chilling a thought...), therefore could write trivial music only, designed to make money (note the stereotype coming out again). Hypocritically, he could say all this yet still count many Jews among his friends.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 19 Sep 12 - 07:05 AM

"He was probably the best own-libretto writer among all opera composers. Look at Michael Tippett or Harry Partch for some thoroughly cringeworthy moments in the text. The music covers these but at times you'd rather it was being sung in Uzbek. Wagner never sounds silly."

Again, I refer you to the Wagner opera "Lohengrin". Almost all of it sounds silly.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Sep 12 - 08:52 AM

What's silly about this?

In fernem Land

libretto


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 19 Sep 12 - 08:58 AM

Don, did you read any reviews of this series of performances online? They weren't all complimentary, one suggested Voight's Brunnhilde was "swinging at the high notes." I wouldn't say that, but I haven't listened to multiple performances to compare, and what I heard was lovely. In the stage and costume design department I will note that it's amazing the spark a bright red wig adds to the character (you'll note over the course of the performances that her hair gets a bit darker with each opera, kind of like Grace Kelly's garments in Dial M for Murder).

She herself in an interview said that as the first time she's played Brunnhilde it isn't as "fully fleshed out" a performance as it would be with successive performances, given time to consider the part with the eye of experience.

And this weekend I think you'll really enjoy Sigmund and Siglinda. :)

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Sep 12 - 09:06 AM

"What's silly about this?

In fernem Land

libretto"

The endless "hail this, hail that", the pompous talk about Germany, that bit where everyone can't get over "The swan..." etc etc etc

Silliness is, de facto, a relative thing in opera, I'll give you that. In order to listen to opera, you do of course have to get past the fact that people will be singing often banal words, exposition etc, and giving them a projection that gives them a bathos that is inherently silly.
("how are you to-daaaaaaaaaaayy?" "Can't complain maaaaaaaaate!" "Thank you very muuuuuuuuch" "you-oo-oo-oo are most wwwwwwwelcome!" - I'm exaggerating for caricature, but not much).

But the stuff you linked to summarises in a nutshell precisely the sort of pompous silliness that characterises that opera for me. It's straight out of Monty Python.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Sep 12 - 09:51 AM

There is no mention of Germany in the aria I linked to. The only placename is the mythological Montsalvat, whose name is meant to sound Catalan or Provencal.

The swan as an image of a king coming to the rescue features elsewhere in Europe, as in this Breton ballad:

An Alarc'h

Wagner was simply making an allusion to mediaeval myth.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 19 Sep 12 - 11:40 AM

Matt, rather than belabor the topic of how operatic performances are played out, it's obvious you're a candidate for theatrical drama in the form of plays.

Not everyone wants to suspend reality and accustom the ear to the stylized musical performance in opera.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 19 Sep 12 - 12:17 PM

Jack - here's a quote from the link you put up:

"THE KING
I thank you, good men of Brabant!
How my heart shall swell with pride
if on every acre of German soil I find
such mighteous throngs of troops!
Let the Empire's enemy now approach,
we will meet him with courage:
from the barren wastes of the East
he shall never dare attack again!
For German soil the German sword!
Thus shall the Empire's might be proved!"

"Not everyone wants to suspend reality and accustom the ear to the stylized musical performance in opera."

Happy to suspend reality (something one has to do with theatre of all kinds) and I'm happy to accustom my ear to stylized musical performances of all kinds. I like Napalm Death for instance and other growled death metal vocals, which have a lot in common with opera in terms of extremes of stylization.

I listen to a fair bit of opera and go maybe 2-3 times a year. (Used to go much more often when my girlfriend worked at Covent Garden opera house). But that doesn't stop me turning off the critical part of my brain that recognises the bathos in that discrepancy between the (necessary) projection/over-enunciation inherent in the form and the libretto: performance investing even the most slightest of libretto sentences with a disproportionate significance. I'm often surprised postwar composers haven't exploited this fact. (Suspect someone probably has, and that I'm just unaware of it.)


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Sep 12 - 12:42 PM

That bit wasn't part of the aria I linked to. It isn't very different in thinking from a lot of Shakespeare.

The opera was written in 1846-8, so it predates any political expression of German nationalism. It's a love story set in a mediaeval wartime. The historical detail is overly complicated, but that's true of all the many historical romances written around Europe under the influence of Walter Scott. Wagner's later works greatly simplify the historical back-stories and the idea of nation barely features - does it really matter to the story of Tristan and Isolde that Marke is a king, or of where?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Songwronger
Date: 19 Sep 12 - 11:54 PM

I pick up operas at thrift shops. 2-3-4 discs in a case for a buck, can't beat it. Last one I listened to was a short one called The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, by Michael Nyman. Strange piece. Nyman has done some nice film score work. What was the movie, The Thief, the Wife, the Cook, etc. He did the score for that. Excellent.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 12:21 AM

Jack, you said that "The opera was written in 1846-8, so it predates any political expression of German nationalism", but German Nationalism started to take shape much before that. It was flourishing at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. With the end of the Holy Roman Empire, and the subsequent defeat of Napoleon there was both a feeling for some sort of unification of the German speaking peoples and the opportunity for it. German Nationalism was, in fact, a driving force in many of the Revolutions of 1848, which you can Google, just as well as I can.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Jane Ann Liston
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 07:38 AM

Offenbach wrote a delightful Wagner parody 'Symphonie de l'avenir'. Wagner never forgave him for this. Whether Offenbach's Jewish origin had anything to do with this, I do not know.

By the way it was Rossini who made the 'wonderful moments but awful quarter hours' comment about Wagner.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 03:50 PM

I haven't seen any reviews of "The Ring" so far, Maggie, but then I haven't really looked yet.

But damn and blast!! KCTS Channel 9 is showing it on successive Sunday afternoons, and we're having guests this Sunday--actually, our monthly writers' group, in which several of us get together, read what we've written lately, and critique each other's stuff. I always look forward to these sessions, but it means I'll have to miss Die Walküre this Sunday!

I have discovered that bits and chunks of it are starting to show up on YouTube!! Not anywhere near as good as seeing the whole thing on our new 26" flat-panel high definition TV, but--maybe they'll redo it sometime. Or Tacoma's PBS affiliate, KBTC, will pick it up. They often show stuff a few weeks after KCTS does (most convenient if we have to miss a show we want to see!)

####

Frankly, I don't give diddly-squat whether Wagner was a German nationalist or not. That was a century and a half ago, and the world has gone through a lot of changes since then.

One of the biggest recurring problems in the world is people who insist on perpetuating feuds that started centuries ago!!

And oftentimes, those who are currently thirsting for blood don't even know what set the feud off in the first place!

Maybe this is evolution's way of culling the herd and improving the gene pool. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 20 Sep 12 - 09:50 PM

Don, I recorded them but since you said you'd see it I hadn't done anything about converting the files to burn. I'll give that one a shot.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 03:27 PM

Don, most feuds of the past are safely forgotten. Those that continue to be fought do so because they still strike a nerve - sometimes a different one than originally. Facts of history are mixed with myths and legends, and then often projected onto new problems.

Theatre directors love the "Ring" because it leaves ample space for interpretation. Other operas have clearly-cut heroes and messages, which may not be found compatible with current ideas. "Lohengrin" has been mentioned in that context; but although Wagner clearly identifies with the title hero, he grants a point or two to the antagonists.

Opera goers have learned to live with problematic plots. Those however who only care for the music, miss the point. This applies even to Baroque operas, all the more for "auteuristic" dramas such as Wagner's. And yes, some aspects of the author's personality do matter, in my opinion. -

Present-day "musicals" represent a direct continuation of the opera tradition. Anyone who wants to criticize "opera", must be more specific. And certainly Wagner is not typical of the genre. Beginners who come from Mudcat can be recommended to listen to French 19th century operas first, or perhaps to the cherished "Bartered Bride" (though they may object against some clichés in that one).


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 03:37 PM

Beginners who come from Mudcat can be recommended to listen to French 19th century operas first, or perhaps to the cherished "Bartered Bride" (though they may object against some clichés in that one).

The first operas I got to like were 20th century ones - Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle" and Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex". Wagner's "Tristan" wasn't far behind. All of those have simple, archetypal storylines with close to zero historical or political connotations.

19th century French opera has never really connected with me. It just seems like a bunch of songs strung together.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Sep 12 - 05:57 PM

An opera that's a good introduction to the genre is Puccini's La Bohème.

A group of "bohemians" living on the edge in Paris in the 1850s. Artist types. Rodolfo (tenor) is a poet and aspiring playwright, Marcello (baritone), Rodolfo's roommate, is a painter (CLICKY). They have two close buddies, Schaunard (baritone), a musician (although it's never made specific what instrument he plays or how he expresses his music), and Colline (bass), a philosopher, who wears a big coat with many pockets in which he carries a whole library of books.

Twentieth century equivalents, a group of beatniks or hippies.

Rodolfo meets Mimi (soprano), the girl who lives upstairs, and they immediately fall in love (CLICKY). She makes a meager living by sewing artificial flowers. But she's frail and a bit sickly. In the harsh Parisian winter, living in a cold and drafty garret is not good for Mimi. Never made specific, but the assumption is that Mimi suffers from "consumption" (tuberculosis).

Marcello also has a girl friend, Musetta (soprano). She's a chronic flirt, and this drives Marcello crazy. But she has a good heart.

Act II. The gang whoopin' it up at the Café Momus on Christmas eve (CLICKY). Mimi's and Rodolfo's first date.

And in the final act (Act IV), the guys clowning it up (CLICKY) before Musetta knocks on the door and tells them that Mimi is down below, too sick and weak to climb the stairs.

Spoiler alert! Just before the final curtain: Mimi dies in Rodolfo's arms (CLICKY).

No kings, pharaohs, great battles, no complicated plot. Just a small group of ordinary people, easy for anyone to relate to. Kind of a tear-jerker ending, but absolutely gorgeous music, and with a halfway decent cast of singers, it would be hard to screw it up.

It was the first opera I was introduced to, and the first opera I actually saw live, on stage. Highly recommended for those new to opera. Warm plunge.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Jane Ann Liston
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 08:01 AM

As far as 'Boheme' is concerned I definitely prefer Musetta to Mimi. In fact, I prefer operetta to grand because in the latter, so many of the women are wimps, with 'victim' writ large upon their foreheads before they've sung a note! Usually they allow themselves to suffer at the hands of men: fathers, husbands, brothers, lovers. Operetta heroines are much less likely to put up with being bossed about, and are therefore better role models, plus more likely to let you leave the theatre with a smile. Who wants to be in tears at the end of an evening out?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 11:26 AM

The first one I remember as a child was Fidelio that was broadcast on television. I remember years later asking my mother about some concert we'd watched and I described a woman singing outside a castle (or prison) walls - she was amazed I remembered it at all because I'd been about 4 when it was broadcast.

For sheer fun I always enjoy productions of Die Fledermaus over the holidays, just like I always enjoy The Nutcracker ballet. There are others that for various reasons - great music, interesting libretto, whatever. In no particular order, Tosca, The Daughter of the Regiment (of course I saw the Beverly Sills broadcast), La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie), The Bartered Bride, Don Giovanni, Marriage of Figaro (etc. - basically, any Mozart operas). I won't catalog them, and what I've done is list charismatic well-known operas that I enjoy in broadcast on the radio or on television. I don't get to live often because of the cost, but given the means, I would attend more often. They're also probably performed more frequently, giving a chance to know them better.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 12:08 PM

An opera I have thoroughly enjoyed is "Boris Godunov," Mussorgsky's masterpiece.
I have three versions on DVD, Kirov Opera of St. Petersburg, Bolshoi Opera, and the original 1869 version, De Nederlandse Opera, as staged in Barcelona. The first two were re-orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov. All three are excellent, but I would have liked to have heard Nesterenko of the Bolshoi production in the original as recorded in Barcelona. Robert Lloyd, Boris in the Kirov presentation, was a surprise to me, a non-Russian in a very Russian opera.

I have recently re-listened to "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme," not a real opera, but a musical comedy ballet with text by Molière and music by Lully, originally staged in 1670 and directed by Vincent Dumestre, Alpha 700 DVD. It tells the tale of a countryman who comes to the city and wants to learn how to be a "gentleman."


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 01:51 PM

Not to take us off the subject, but that is a popular theme that turns up everywhere including MGM cartoons (like this.)

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 03:31 PM

Well, Jane Ann, Stilly River Sage in the post just below yours mentioned an opera in which the lead is a very strong woman who takes charge of a nasty situation and wins! Fidelio, by Beethoven (his only opera).

The heroine's name is Leonora. Her husband is a political prisoner, along with a number of other people. She finds out where he is imprisoned, then dresses herself as a young man and applies for a job in the prison, telling them that his (her) name is "Fidelio" (Faithful). She manages to find her husband, free him and the rest of the prisoners, and bring those who imprisoned them to book.

Not bad!!

Of course, one thing you need to take into consideration in some opera plots is the status of single women, and women in general, in the cultural climate of the times in which the particular opera is supposed to be taking place. It's not that the women allow themselves to suffer at the hands of men (fathers, husbands, etc.), it's that, in the culture of the times, they have little choice. Nevertheless, within this cultural context, there are plenty of strong, take-charge women.

In Il Trovatore (The Troubadour), which takes place during a civil war in Spain in the sixteenth century, even though Manrico, the troubadour knight and his love, Leonora (another "Leonora"; the name sings well), wind up dead at the end, the gypsy woman, Azucena, wins, exacting a terrible revenge on the Count di Luna and his family, who had burned her mother at the stake as a witch, the incident that kicks off the plot in the first place.

And Brunhilda, in Wagner's "Ring Cycle" (CLICKY) is not exactly a shrinking violet.

Don Firth

P. S. And by the way, Q, ". . . a non-Russian in a very Russian opera." American bass-baritone George London, born in Canada and raised in Los Angeles was the first Canadian-American to be invited to sing Wotan in "The Ring," and a number of other Wagnerian roles in Germany (Bayreuth Wagner Festival, I think), and he was also invited to sing "Boris Godunov" in Russia a number of times.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 03:32 PM

Speaking of "La Boheme", I saw Baz Luhrmann's Broadway production,(which was wonderful) and can tell you that the difference between a Broadway musical and a Broadway opera is that he had three casts who alternated performances, because it was too demanding vocally for one cast to perform night after night.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 03:48 PM

Not sure what you were linking to Don, but that doesn't look like Brunnhilde riding onto a pyre or any other exciting moment in the operas!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Sep 12 - 04:23 PM

I "google imaged" my way through a bunch of images of Brunnhilde, but couldn't really find what I was looking for, so I picked that one, figuring she was taking a short breather between miscellaneous heroic deeds.

####

By the way, speaking of "Boris Godunov," when Seattle Opera did it some years back (lavish production!), Boris was sung by Giorgio Tozzi.

Despite the Italian name, Giorgio Tozzi was an American, born in Chicago, and was one of the basso mainstays of the Metropolitan Opera for many years.

If you saw the 1958 movie version of "South Pacific," you heard his voice. Rossano Brazzi played the role of Emile de Becque, but Brazzi's singing voice in such songs as "Some Enchanted Evening" was Giorgio Tozzi's voice dubbed in.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 12:08 AM

In some comic operas, like Don Pasquale, women have a stronger role than in tragic operas. However, even in tragic operas the role of women is being reinterpreted. I suppose that has a lot to do with the directors and the singers, and perhaps some purists would object to the reinterpretations.

Thinking of opera directors and singers, before I started seeing Met Opera broadcasts at movie theaters two years ago, I had always imagined the performances to be rather wooden: singer on stage singing but not acting. I was delighted to find out that I was wrong. Many of the singers are also excellent actors. Friends who have long been opera fans have told me that more and more often acting abilities as well as singing abilities have been required in operas. I have also been amazed at the physical capabilities of the performers. They don't just stand on stage!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 12:25 PM

My two favorite actors in opera are Placido Domingo and Natalie Dessay. Netrebko's pretty good too, and still a pleasure to look at.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 12:46 PM

Ah! Daniele De Niese! Luscious. (Forget I used that gender-incorrect word). Makes silly staging of some opera re-dos almost acceptable. Queen of Glyndebourne. Not the top singer in the tree, but does a pretty good job of her roles- and - I could go on......


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Fred Maslan
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 03:01 PM

Many years ago I bought season tickets to the opera, thinking it might be a "babe magnet" (I was very young). After attending nearly the whole series I had almost convinced myself I did not like Opera, when Beverly Sills came to town. I realized then it wasn't opera that was the problem. It was the local opera company! (Which by the way is much improved). I especially love the Russian operas, with there roots in the Russian acappella tradition.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 03:33 PM

Hey! Wottheheck is going on? I just checked the "Brunnhilde" link in my post above and it's definitely NOT the one I intended to post. In fact, I've never seen the image before! This, apparently, is the one Stilly was commenting on.

I googled images of Brunnhilde and picked one showing her dressed in essentially Viking battle armor, with a spear in one hand, shield in the other, standing on a rocky promontory and surveying the scene below her. Most impressive!

Also, I checked the link on "Preview," and it was the right one, so I hit "Submit Message," then checked again, and it was still the right one.

This morning I took a look and the image is entirely different! Wotthehell hoppen!??

Anyway, lemme try it againd and see what happens:    CLICKY.

####

On the Classic Arts Showcase channel, I've seen a clip of Natalie Dessay singing the "Mad Scene" in Lucia di Lammermoor. WOW!!!

The opera is adapted from Sir Walter Scott's novel, "The Bride of Lammermoor," adapted to the opera stage by Gaetano Donizetti.

The Lammermoors and the Ravenscrofts have been feuding for generations.   One day, Lucy is walking in the woods nearby, and is attacked by a wild boar. A young man appears in the nick of time, kills the boar, saving her. It turns out the young man is Edgar of Ravenswood.

They continue meeting surreptitiously in the woods, and, of course, they fall in love (basic Romeo and Juliet plot). Edgar, who is very poor, tells her that he will go to France, recoup his wealth, then go to the head of the Lammermoor family, Lucy's brother Henry, make peace with him, and ask him for her hand in marriage—joining the two families and ending the feud.

While he is away, Lucy's brother Henry learns that she and Edgar have been seeing each other, and intercepts Edgar's letters to Lucy. Lucy, not hearing from him, is in despair, afraid that he has abandoned her.

In the meantime, the Lammermoor family is having financial problems of its own, so Henry arranges to have Lucy married to the wealthy Lord Arthur Bucklaw. Lucy refuses, but under heavy pressure from Henry, including his lying to her and telling her that he has heard that Edgar has married someone else, the miserable Lucy agrees to Henry's demands, not caring what happens to her at this point.

A few moments after the wedding contract is signed by both Lord Arthur and Lucy, in bursts Edgar, just back from France (the famous "sextet" takes place at this point). Edgar, thinking Lucy has betrayed him, curses her. He and Henry agree to meet the following morning for a duel and end the feud forever, one way or another, then he stalks out, furious and bewildered. Lord Arthur stands there with a finger up his nose, wondering what the hell is going on. And Lucy is starting to come unglued!

In the next scene, Arthur and Lucy have adjourned to their chamber and the wedding party is having a jolly good time, when a maid appears and announces to the party that Lucy has just killed Lord Arthur Bucklaw with a dagger. As the crowd stands around with their mouths open, Lucy appears at the top of the stairs with blood stains—Arthur's—all over her wedding dress.

CLICKY.

WARNING. This scene lasts about twenty minutes. But the singer is the aforementioned French coloratura soprano, Natalie Dessay.

I have seen this opera a couple of times on television and once live at Seattle Opera, and Natalie Dessay's "Mad Scene" is the best I've seen, both singing and acting.

[The only thing I DON'T like about this rendition is the tendency on the part of some opera directors to "update" the staging and costumes of operas set in historical eras. As I recall, in the Seattle Opera production, the men were wearing kilts. Most appropriate.]

Some decades back, I saw "Lucia" on television with the great soprano Joan Sutherland singing the role. The voice was great—but Dame Joan just STOOD there for the whole thing, essentially motionless, with her hands clasped like a little choir girl, and sang straight to the audience.

In addition to having a first class singing voice, Natalie Dessay is a fantastic actress!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 05:34 PM

[The only thing I DON'T like about this rendition is the tendency on the part of some opera directors to "update" the staging and costumes of operas set in historical eras. As I recall, in the Seattle Opera production, the men were wearing kilts. Most appropriate.]

Kilts are no more appropriate for the early-modern Scottish Lowlands than they are for the Tokyo subway.

The Lammermuirs are a few miles from where I live and I can get there on a local bus. I've never seen anyone on those buses in a kilt and I wouldn't have been any more likely to if that bus had been running in Donizetti's time or in the period Scott's novel is set.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 06:16 PM

Post from yesterday apparently didn't take - I have been wondering if various local opera companies get a bump from the presentation of something like the Ring Cycle - an uptick in opera interest?

The new photo makes a lot more sense, Don!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 06:24 PM

Surely I can't be the only bugger reading this thread who's noticed that Mozart isn't even getting a look in. Dammit, most operas are based on stupid stories, none more so than Wagner's, and Mozart's are no exception. But the music is utterly sublime. The guy knew how to entertain, edify and enthrall, all in the same music. Best of the lot by a long chalk, I reckon!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 07:52 PM

Don, that is a great clip, and I saw that at the movie theater. For anyone who doesn't want to watch the whole 20 minutes, watch the first four as Dessay rolls herself down the bottom three steps. Ouch! And then she continues to sing and act. I can't imagine doing that once, let alone performance after performance.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 08:31 PM

Mebbe so, Jack, but for the purposes of creating a sort of Scottish "ambiance," kilts are a lot more appropriate than tuxedos, even if NEITHER are historically accurate.

####

Mozart? Right you are, Steve!

Here's a concert presentation of the love (seduction) duet between Don Giovanni (Italian for "Don Juan") and Zerlina, a highly impressionable little country girl, sung by hunky Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and the lovely American soprano Renée Fleming. CLICKY. I get a kick out of the way, even in a concert situation, he starts to drag her off the stage to look for a convenient haystack.

Renée Fleming once commented in an interview that when doing love scenes and seduction scenes with Hvorostovsky, she doesn't have to act, panted a bit, and fanned herself with her hand.

Early in the opera, Don Giovanni seduces the daughter of the Commendatore. The Commendatore rushes in, sword in hand, and Giovanni kills him. Later, mockingly, Giovanni invites a statue of the Commentatore to dinner.

Conceive his surprise when the statue arrives at the appointed time! And drags the unrepentant Don Giovanni down to Hell! CLICKY. (Thomas Ramey, baritone and Kurt Moll, bass).

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Sep 12 - 09:11 PM

Handel produced operas by the score, much good music but his plots often were fluff.
Vivaldi was prolific with operatic scores; they are only beginning to be appreciated.
So many composers, so many scores. One could listen continuously for a lifetime. Many have yet to be recorded.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 06:48 AM

for the purposes of creating a sort of Scottish "ambiance," kilts are a lot more appropriate than tuxedos, even if NEITHER are historically accurate.

A lot of Scots find it pretty offensive to have their history Bravehearted up like that.

There aren't many operas set in the early US. One is Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, set in colonial Boston around 1700. A similar approach to historical authenticity would be to have all the cast in backwards baseball caps, saggy jeans, gold chains, and designer sunglasses.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 12:47 PM

Jack, unfortunately the subtleties of modern regietheater seem to escape you. The kilts are of course an ironic comment on the clichés about Scotland (or Scottland) held by the degenerated bourgeoisie. Actually, the director received a phone call "We Muslims in opera are cartoons in nightgowns, as in Entführung aus dem Serail and L'italiana in Algeri. If you not also show Scots in kilts, we will bomb!"


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Stringsinger
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 03:29 PM

Thank you Kat.

Two of the best operas that don't have creaky librettos or plots are:

Otello by Giuseppe Verde and Boito (librettist)

The Counsel and Amahl and the Night Visitor by Gian Carlo Menotti.

Maybe The Magic Flute could be placed in this category (an afterthought)

There may be more that have dramatic credibility but not too many.

I might include Porgy and Bess as well as Sweeney Todd as important operas
with engaging librettos.

One could argue that the American Musical has made strides in combining sincere drama with music, for example West Side Story.

Opera is nevertheless highly entertaining if 1. you see it live and 2. if you have a way of following the text.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 04:53 PM

Jack, Lucia di Lammermoor, based on a novel by Sir Walter Scott, is set in Scotland. How would you prefer that this information be conveyed to the audience? Have the stage director interrupt the action and have a bagpipe and drum band march across the stage from time to time?

Opera is full of stereotypes—of necessity. In Puccini's La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West) we have people singing in Italian, but supposed to be gold miners and cowboys. Many of them are wearing Stetsons and spurs on their boots. And when the lead tenor first appears, he walks in (Stetson, spurs, six-guns on his hips) and sings "Sono Dick Johnson di Sacremento." Got quite a laugh when the opera was first performed in the United States.

And in Puccini's Madama Butterfly, the lead tenor portrays an American naval officer, Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, on leave in Japan. He turns out to be a total jerk, spurring this young naive young Japanese woman, who thought he was sincere and not just out for a quick lay, to commit ritual suicide. He led hear to believe they were married, but to him, she was just a pleasant diversion while he was on leave.

Should I, as an American, be offended by the use of these stereotypes?

I can see the dramatic necessity of conveying an essential piece of information to an audience by the simple device of a stereotype. And I don't see that THESE PARTICULAR stereotypes are at all offensive, save to someone who is looking to be offended.

####

Re: the Boston setting of "The Masked Ball."

Originally, Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera was based on a play having to do with the 1792 assassination of Sweden's King Gustave III.

But as per my post above of 14 Sep. 12 – 5:46 p.m., the authorities kept a close watch on the themes of Verdi's works and censored his operas on more than one occasion.

And this was one of those occasions. An opera in which a monarch was assassinated might just give people, especially oppressed people (and Italy was under the Austrian thumb at the time) ideas—and this was unacceptable! So they demanded that Verdi either pull the opera or change it.

If the opera dealt with the assassination of a mere governor in the wilds of far-off America, this was more or less acceptable to the almighty authorities. But a European king? Never!! So, gnashing his teeth, Verdi made the demanded changes

But—he kept the original! And the original with King Gustave III as the assassinated party is the way most opera companies do the opera now. NOT the "Boston version."

A similar thing happened with Verdi's Rigoletto. The story deals with the lecherous young Duke of Mantua (tenor) who is out to seduce anything in skirts. In the course of events, the duke manages to seduce, or rape, the innocent daughter of his hunchbacked jester, Rigoletto. Rigoletto then plots the death of the Duke, but the plot goes horribly wrong.

Originally, the opera was based on the play Le Roi S'Amuse (The King Amuses Himself) by Victor Hugo, and the King in question was Francis I of France. Once again, the Austrian authorities had a hissy-fit. The opera showed a monarch in a bad light, and there was also the assassination plot. They demanded that Verdi either pull the opera or changed it. So once again, spitting sparks, Verdi morphed the French king into the non-existent Duke of Mantua, and one of Verdi's best known operas was allowed to live.

And one of the best known tenor arias in opera. The Duke singing "La Donna é Mobile" (Women are Fickle). Ha! Look who's talking!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 05:05 PM

FYI:
The kilt is a knee-length garment with pleats at the rear, originating in the traditional dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century. Since the 19th century it has become associated with the wider culture of Scotland in general, or with Celtic (and more specifically Gaelic) heritage even more broadly. It is most often made of woollen cloth in a tartan pattern.

Although the kilt was most often worn on formal occasions, and at Highland games and sports events, it has also been adapted as an item of fashionable informal male clothing in recent years, returning to its roots as an everyday garment.
Where you see most of the kilts in a traditional staging of Lucia di Lammermoor is in the scene in which everyone is gathered for the wedding of Lucia and Lord Arturo.

A formal occasion, where, historically, kilts were traditionally worn.

So what's the big deal?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 05:24 PM

Gustav III was seen in the political terms of the day as a progressive, maybe even a radical. His assassination was organized by the reactionary aristocratic elite.

Now which of the world's national leaders is currently getting the most assassination threats from people of similar disposition?

That American setting doesn't look so silly after all.


Lucia di Lammermoor, based on a novel by Sir Walter Scott, is set in Scotland. How would you prefer that this information be conveyed to the audience?

Tell them in the programme note. Fix a few stag antlers on the wall. It isn't all that important to the action anyway. Does anybody code the national setting of Tosca by having people walk across the stage at the start carrying panfuls of pasta?

Wikipedia gives a detailed biography of the actual family behind the story:

Lord Stair

They were lifelong enemies of everything to do with Highland culture and politics (as would anybody have been who'd lived through what the Highlanders did to Galloway). They would have seen association with tartan symbolism as a deadly insult, like painting Abraham Lincoln in a Klan outfit.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 05:54 PM

Steve, a while back I posted . . ., Don Giovanni, Marriage of Figaro (etc. - basically, any Mozart operas). . . - not wanting to list all of them because it would run on. I agree, they're first rate.

Never expected a thread to get hot and bothered about the length (or the presence of) a man's kilt. :)

Does any of you remember one of the programs that Victor Borge used to tour with? He would have a couple of plants in the audience for skits and he had a soprano with him to torture, usually with Caro Nome from Rigoletto. "Don't lean on the piano! You'll dent it!"

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 06:15 PM

It looks like some American opera companies get it right:

San Diego production of Lucia, Peter Hall designs

Spot on for 17th century Scottish aristocratic dress. There are other photos of this production around the web. Looks great. And there is a dramatic point to this. Scott knew those characters well. They were fond of the same kind of ostentatious personal display that aristocrats all over Europe went in for. It's well documented in their portraits. Scott's novel is an arranged-marriage story, about a conflict between love and familial wealth and power; displaying that wealth and power in their fashion sense underlines the point. The designers of the 19th century productions got this right, and dressing the cast up in an austere nationalist uniform gets it entirely wrong.

Meanwhile I found a review page on an English National Opera production that has one of the male leads in a short kilt of the modern type that did not exist anywhere at the period when the story is set. I have yet to be impressed by anything ENO has ever done; they seem extraordinarily fond of fucking things up with gratuitous modernist anachronisms.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 06:39 PM

From your same link, but a page earlier, this looks like what I would imagine from the various period books I've read. Knee-length breeches with stockings, or long pants, and kilts on occasions, not all of the time.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 06:51 PM

From the article:
Sir Walter Scott took the plot of his Bride of Lammermoor from this incident, but he disclaimed any intention of making Lord Stair the basis for Sir William Ashton.
Jack, I agree that the photo you linked to is a more appropriate depiction of the period being portrayed, and is the way I have usually seen the production. But—you're going to have to explain to me why the wearing of kilts by some of the cast members in some productions of Lucia do Lammermoor offensive to Scots.

It's a work of FICTION, Jack!

And Un Ballo in Maschera, once again, although the idea for the plot of the play from which Verdi got his idea for the opera was derived from an actual incident, in the opera itself, the assassination plot was hatched up by Count Anckarström, who is under the impression that the King and his wife, Amelia, are having an affair.

Again, A WORK OF FICTION.

What does today's political climate have to do with it?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 07:14 PM

Very little, I hope. This thread is about opera!

When I was a kid I remember discovering the MGM musicals, and others, but MGM were the biggest. And Kathryn Grayson, Jeannette McDonald, Nelson Eddy, Howard Keel, Ann Blythe, Jane Powell, and others. I always thought they had the voices for opera, but I seem to recall my mother telling me that they had the looks to make it in the movies and made a lot more money. Does that theory work for the rest of you? Did they have the chops for opera if they so choose? I know there were some crossover folks, between stage and film and opera, but I don't know if any in this group named were part of that group. (John Raitt, Alan Jones, Paul Robeson, I know they were up to the rigors of opera.)

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 07:25 PM

The costumes in that picture look fine - but no kilts, ever. The short kilt hadn't been invented, and a great kilt would have got you the same reception on the Dalrymples' turf as a burka at a Republican convention.

I presume this is the first Earl of Stair in military campaign garb:

flickr page

and here he is trying to make an impression:

artfund image

Stair managed to combine having the sort of dysfunctional family people write operas about with being the leading legal theorist in Scottish history and a major political figure, among other things being largely responsible for the Massacre of Glencoe and partly for the Treaty of Union. He was a one-off. And could probably have had you murdered for suggesting he ever wore a kilt.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 09:37 PM

In the Met's production of Lucia in which Natalie sang, I remember that there were men dressed in tartan fabrics in an early scene, but I don't remember any kilts. There were some big, lovely dogs, too, probably Scottish deerhounds.

The aforementioned Un Ballo in Maschera is included in the schedule of HD broadcasts this season. Anna Netrebko will perform in it. Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito is also included. Don Giovanni was included last year.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 09:57 PM

"Khovanshchina" is another Russian opera by Mussorgsky, completed by Rimsky-Korsakov.
It is set in the time of Peter the Great, about the struggle for power between the old order and the new. Two great Russian bassos sing the roles of the "Old Believer" and Prince Khovansky, who represents the new; Nesterenko and Vedernikov, resp. Intrigue galore, it kept my interest.

I enjoyed "The Cunning Little Vixen" by Leos Janacek, which is based on a serialized comic novella. Much of the comedy is retained, but the composer, who was 70 when he wrote it, reflects on the cycle of life and death. Thomas Allen plays the role of a Forester, and Eva Jenis the Vixen.
The staging, designed by Bob Crowley, is brightly colored and eye-catching, but the simplicity and essential innocence of the tale is kept. Conducted by Charles Mackerras, Orchestra of Paris, Choeur du Chatelet, Chatelet Theatre Musical of Paris. I highly recommend this DVD (there are other films available).


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 10:07 PM

At the start of this thread, SRS linked the Wikipedia write-up on the Ring Cycle.
The story and history of many operas are summarized in Wiki; a quick source of information.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,olddude
Date: 24 Sep 12 - 10:19 PM

by far the most complex and beautiful music ever written is Opera
love it ...


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 25 Sep 12 - 10:56 AM

I'm currently taking a class for old geezers at a local college entitled "Brush up Your Shakespeare." It consists of 5 operas based on plays by Shakespeare. As mentioned by someone earlier, Verdi's Otello is exquisite. However, the instructor says that later in the term we're going to view a version of Hamlet with a happy ending. Can't wait for that.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Stringsinger
Date: 25 Sep 12 - 04:41 PM

There was a production of Aida presented where they used live elephants onstage.
During one dramatic moment, one of the elephants pooped onstage prompting the comment, "A critic!"


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Sep 12 - 12:36 PM

The French label Fra Musica has some interesting opera DVD's in their catalogue.
Lully, both Armide (Theatre des Champs Elyases and Atys (Opera comique), by Lully, Les Arts Florissants and William Christie performing the music for both French opera companies. Two cds each.

These will seriously deflate my budget, since they are about $40 each.

Others offered by Fra Musica on DVD are Carmen, music by Gardiner; Mirelle (Gounod), orchestra directed by Marc Minkowski, Opera National de Paris, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Christie and Opera comique (London!); Katia Kabanova (Janacek) performed at Teatro Real (Madrid), conductor Belohlavek, production by Robert Carsen.

Seriously deflate? Leave only a dead moth and some dust.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 27 Sep 12 - 11:44 AM

Several years ago I had the great good fortune to stumble upon a bin full of classical CDs, all great labels, at a garage sale run by a local church. This was from someone's estate, and I ended up getting the entire bin (300+ discs) because the woman running it was convinced no one would by classical - as I looked at it she walked up and said "I'll never sell those. $20 and the bin is yours." I handed over the bill, and have been working my way through listening to this collection ever since. Based upon the selections, I think he must have taught, using various performances of the same works as examples, but his collection included a lot of secular works, including opera. I've been slow to move into that part of the collection, but I think I'll do a little research on each one then give them a listen. I thought of this because there are a few Fra Musica discs in there.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 05 Nov 12 - 07:08 PM

The first of the Fall 2012, Metropolitan Opera Encore broadcasts at my local cinema will be L'Elisir D'Amore with Anna Netrebko. It will be on Wednesday evening, November 7. I have my ticket, but a storm is moving in and my car is making a whining noise. (I've scheduled a service appointment on Thursday and won't drive much between now and then.) I hope I get to the opera and back home again! While seeing an opera on a big screen can't duplicate the experience of seeing it live, one of the benefits of seeing it this way is that during intermission you see interviews with performers and other people involved in the production as well as seeing parts of the set changes.

On Sunday, CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on the Live in HD Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. You should be able to see it here, probably after an advertisement. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50134467n&tag=contentMain;contentBody

You can then look at a web extra about The Tempest. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50134460n&tag=contentMain;contentBody


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 05 Nov 12 - 11:04 PM

It took a little poking around to find the list, but there are actually five theaters in this county that are participating! Thanks for the heads-up!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 06 Nov 12 - 09:30 PM

The theater I go to doesn't advertise them. I found out because I often heard people at my local Y and library book club talking about seeing the operas, so one day I asked them where. I don't know why they are not advertised. I can only get information at the theater or on their website.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Jane Ann Liston
Date: 07 Nov 12 - 08:13 AM

Ah, Lucia - now that is precisely one of the characters whom I meant earlier when I referred to women with 'victim' writ large upon the forehead when they walk onto the grand opera stage. Even allows herself to be bossed about by her brother! Cio-Cio San (Butterfly) is another; naive to the point of stupidity and ends up destroying herself. Incidentally, that opera was partly based upon the experiences of a Scot, Thomas Glpver, who visited 19th century Japan, not that he betrayed a Japanese girl, of course! Sidney Jones' musical play/operetta was also one of the inspirations for the Puccini work; as I prefer to leave the theatre laughing rather than weeping, I know which I would prefer to see!.

Back to Lucia; Mr Firth, it is quite true what Mr Campin (and I think a few others) says about the inappropriateness of 20th-century-type wedding kilts for an opera set in 17th/18th century Borders; in fact the wearing of tartan was banned for about a quarter of the 18th century, post-Culloden. That's also why many Scots cringe at the portrayal of Scotland in Brigadoon; once every hundred years is too frequent!

Also, referring to an even earlier post, the dancer Moira Shearer was certainly not English, but a Scot born in Dunfermline.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 08 Nov 12 - 08:30 PM

I enjoyed the broadcast of L'Eliser D'Amore, but I had to drive through a snowstorm to get to it. The theater is only a few miles away and the roads were not awful. However, on one stretch of road the streetlights and two traffic signals were out. I almost turned around then but I decided to see how things looked at the theater. The power there was on. By the time I left the theater, the snow had stopped and power along the road had been restored. Wednesday night I will probably go to Otello. I hope there is no snow that evening.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Jane Ann Liston
Date: 09 Nov 12 - 09:02 AM

Chanteylass, you might now find Gilbert & Sullivan's 'The Sorcerer' entertaining, as it owes not a little to L'Elisir d'Amore (as well as a passing reference to Der Freischtutz).

By the way, I see I omitted the name of the Sidney Jones operetta which was one of the inspirations for 'Madama Butterfly' in my last post; it is 'The Geisha', written in 1896. One of the numbers, 'Chin-chin Chinaman' later became a street song. Not often performed now, but lots of good tunes, colour and fun.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Nov 12 - 04:24 PM

Jane Ann, although I am an American of Scottish descent (my great grandfather, born in Scotland, rounded the Horn in 1851 and settled in the American Pacific Northwest), I must confess that I am not that up on the details of the history of Scottish dress codes. I did see one production of Lucia di Lammermoor on television a few decades ago in which a number of the men were wearing kilts. I made the mistake of assuming that those in charge of costuming and such knew what they were doing.

I have recently become quite skeptical in that area, what with directors these days trying their "bold, new concepts" and doing things like dressing the Nibelungen dwarfs in 20th century work clothes, complete with hard-hat and safety goggles and carrying lunch pails. And dressing Siegfried, not in the usual bearskin, but in chinos, a plaid shirt, and suspenders (braces).

There, too, one often makes the mistake of assuming that people know what they're doing, such as those doing the publicity on the first movie that Americans saw Moira Shearer appear in, The Red Shoes (1948). She was billed as an English ballerina.
[In the classic movie Casablanca, there is a scene in Rick's restaurant in which Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and prefect of police Captain Renault (Claude Rains) are sitting at a table and chatting.

Captain Renault asks, "What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?"
"My health," Rick responds. "I came to Casablanca for the waters."
With raised eyebrows, Captain Renault asks, "The waters? What waters? We're in the desert!"
Rick says, "I was misinformed."]
So—like Rick, I was misinformed.

As to the "wimpyness" of women in opera, I refer you to my post above, at 22 Sep 12 – 03:31 (clicking HERE should take you back there), in which I discuss Beethoven's opera, Fidelio. The heroine, Leonora, gets her husband and dozens of other political prisoners freed and exposes a tyrant for what he his. Not exactly "wimpy."

Or Minnie in Puccini's La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West). Her saloon, in addition to being place where the local miners can slake their thirst, is a school. She is teaching many of them to read and write. And it's the nearest thing the small mining town has to a church. She reads Bible verses to the miners on Sundays. She's the town's one civilizing influence. And in the final act of the opera, she faces down a lynch mob and saves a man's life. Not "wimpy" at all.

And, of course, Brunhilde and the other ladies in the troop of Valkyries are anything but shrinking violets.

In Lucia di Lammermoor, she was essentially a victim of the domination of her brother, the head of the family. But there was no way in that cultural and historical context that she could have prevailed. Read a bit of history, and about the status of women in the period being portrayed.

And as far as Madama Butterfly is concerned, Cio-Cio San, as we all tend to do, interpreted the behavior of Lieutenant Pinkerton within the context of her own culture. In the Japanese culture at the time, Honor was of primary importance and people kept their word, or they, themselves, were dishonored. She trusted that Pinkerton was sincere. She had no reason to think otherwise. The outcome is not a matter of Cio-Cio San being a "wimp," it centered on the fact that Pinkerton was a pluperfect bastard! He may have been quite handsome in his uniform, but he was an "Ugly American."

No. I think you'll find that the fate of women in opera is more a matter of historical and cultural context than their being "wimpy."

How about Jane Austin's novels? They almost all center on young women sitting at home twiddling their thumbs waiting for some wealthy and handsome young swain to come along and marry them. The culture of the era being portrayed. Elizabeth Bennet, however, gives the handsome, dashing, and insufferably snobbish Mr. Darcy a good "wedgie." Rather than fawning over him like the other young women, she blows him off! Indicates that she wouldn't have him if he were the last man on earth. This wakes him up to the fact that he's not the center of the universe. Humanizes him. Once he gets down off his high horse and learns to respect her, he then becomes acceptable.

Historical context.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 09 Nov 12 - 09:55 PM

Jane Ann, if I get a chance to see The Sorcerer, I will. I enjoy Gilbert and Sullivan but have only seen their best-known works.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Songwronger
Date: 18 Nov 12 - 05:13 PM

We're continually compressing CDs into MP3s, and the ones I'm working on now are from a couple of sets called "The Record of Singing." Vols 3 & 4. Going to compress and then sell the originals. Amazing stuff. Recordings from the 78 RPM era. Some outstanding excerpts. Well worth looking for if you like opera:

The Record of Singing (wikipedia)


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 18 Nov 12 - 08:14 PM

On Wednesday evening I saw Verdi's Otello live in HD with Johan Botha singing the lead and Renee Fleming as Desdemona. Next up in two weeks will be The Tempest.

One problem, and I'm not a good friend because I'm whining about this: I used to go alone contentedly, but this year a woman I worked with has joined me for the two operas so far and said she'll go to Tempest and some of the others. But she whispers during the performances, giving her blow-by-blow opinions. I try to look totally focused on what we see and hear and only respond with an occasional "Mmm" without taking my eyes from the screen, but so far that's not working! If this is a problem for me, it must be so for others in the audience!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 18 Nov 12 - 08:49 PM

Chantey Lass: You know, we all lead busy lives and are stressed for any number of reasons. We have a few things that bring us joy, such as music.This person is ruining something that's important to you. Please, please, tell her. What's the worst thing that can happen if you tell her? Believe me, I have real sympathy for your "whine." Good luck, Elmore


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Nov 12 - 09:01 AM

Saw Verdi's Falstaff in class last week. The comedy was a bit too broad, but Bryn Terfel as Falstaff was irresistable, and the cast in general were first rate singers of a difficult musical score.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 19 Nov 12 - 10:02 AM

Guest just above was me.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 19 Nov 12 - 11:35 AM

This weekend I poked around in the Windows Media Center settings and moved all of the recordings from the default C: (that was getting a tad full) over to a spacious extra drive. And I found information about easily converting the WMC files so I can burn them to BluRay and delete them from the drive. First up are the four operas in the Ring Cycle, and that should empty out a bit of space! :)

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Nov 12 - 03:01 PM

ChanteyLass, rather than suffer the running commentary, perhaps you could tell your friend frankly that you are trying to concentrate on the opera and find her commentary distracting. And if she could please file it until after the final curtain, you'd be happy to discuss it with her.

Unfortunately, there seem to be many people who attend operas that could benefit from a good dope-slap every now and then.

When my wife was in college, she had a woman friend who would go to a full-length opera production, then when the tenor or the soprano or the baritone had sung their big aria, would want to pick up and leave! Idiotic! Save some money! Buy a record of miscellaneous operatic arias and listen at home!

A little background:   A voice teacher in Seattle actually ran a small opera company (this was well before Seattle Opera got started) and had the use of a small theater that seated maybe 200 people. She didn't just teach young singers to sing, she taught the full operatic roles. Then, when she had a cast assembled, she would produce full-length operas in the little theater!

There was some criticism of this by other voice teachers because many of the singers were still teenagers, and they felt that singing a full-length opera was a bit much for a young, developing voice.

Nevertheless, I heard some really fine singing of well-known operas by these kids, on a stage not much bigger than a postage stamp (the Soldier's Chorus in Faust consisted of four guys marching in place while they sang). No orchestra. Mrs. Towers, the teacher, accompanied them on a piano.

I heard one girl, Monte, sixteen years old, do a really fine job of singing both Marguerita in Faust and Gilda in Rigoletto.

Then, years later, while attending a big production at Seattle Opera (with full orchestra, lavish costumes, and in a 3,100 seat opera house), of seeing and hearing Monte, all growed up, singing in the real thing!

Anyway, back to the point:   many of the audiences at the productions of the "Towers Opera Studio" were attended by parents and family of the kids in the cast, not necessarily confirmed opera-goers. And some of them, apparently wanting to display the fact that they know the music in the opera, when a big aria would come along (say, Monte singing "Caro Nome" in Rigoletto) would hum or whistle along!!

KILL!!!

Or at least administer a brisk dope-slap to about half the people in the audience!

ChantyLass, if your friend is trying to demonstrate how knowledgeable she is about opera, she is actually demonstrating her lack of knowledge of the protocols of being a sophisticated and appreciative audience member.

Don Firth

P. S. Although having young singers singing roles in full-length operas might be a bit questionable as to overloading their developing voices, Mrs. Towers was aware that many young singers don't make it into opera companies because when they appear for, say, the regional Metropolitan Opera auditions, they know maybe a dozen arias—but not entire roles. This means that if the Met judges like the voice and think it may be worth investing in, they will be paying the singer to learn entire roles over the next few years.

IF, however, a young singer already knows at least a couple of roles, the judges may find them far more attractive. Less time in training and actually on stage much earlier.

Mario Lanza, erroneously considered by some to be one of the greatest operatic singers of the mid-twentieth century, was unacceptable to opera companies in general. He had a really great voice. And he knew lots of arias, some of which he recorded (especially after he starred in the movie "The Great Caruso." But he didn't know any roles. And he was a notoriously lazy slob who wouldn't work at it, and he had a hard time keeping his weight under 300 lbs., which is why the movie studio scratched him from starring in "The Student Prince" and had the slender, handsome Edmond Purdom lip-sync to Lanza's pre-recorded singing.

Also, he had the musical taste of a warthog! My voice teacher at the time commented that Lanza had a truly great voice, but it was like giving a Stradivarius violin to a baboon!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 19 Nov 12 - 07:52 PM

After I did my whining here last night, I thought about my problem with my friend some more, and of course now some of you have given me some suggestions. I think what I will do before the next broadcast starts is tell my friend that I am going to try really hard not to talk to her until the intermission so that we can both listen to the opera and not disturb other people who came to hear it, too. That way I will be blaming myself for the bad behavior, but I hope she decides to be quiet, too.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Nov 12 - 09:03 PM

Soungs like a good, tactful way of going about it. I hope she gets the clue.

Happy listening!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 20 Nov 12 - 08:36 AM

Good luck. I hope your plan is not too subtle for her. I'd really like to know if it works.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 29 Nov 12 - 07:02 PM

My plan in fact worked well, but I may have to repeat it just before each opera. My friend made a couple of comments near the beginning, but I kept my eyes focused on the screen and did not make any sound of acknowledgement when she spoke. After those first few comments, she was quiet. I forgot to remind her during intermission but she stayed quiet.

Last night's broadcast was Thomas Ades' The Tempest. The composer was also the conductor. I would not call the score beautiful, but as a whole the opera was interesting. One of the characters, Trinculo (iesten Davies), was a counter-tenor role. Listening to Ariel, (Audrey Luna), I wondered if there is such a thing as a counter-soprano! Most of the time she seemed to be singing at the upper range of the human voice. Also, she was very strong and agile. During the intermission interview, she credited the person (from the dance troupe?) who did the opening instrumental sequence swinging from a chandelier in a Cirque du Soleil way, but what she had to do with her body while singing looked difficult to me!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 29 Nov 12 - 07:58 PM

Glad to hear your plan was successful, Chantey Lass. Recently I saw a dvd of Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream in which the lead role was played by a counter-tenor. The instructor said that generally men can't stand counter-tenors. I found the whole production peculiar, but interesting.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 29 Nov 12 - 08:16 PM

For those of you interested in Opera, may I introduce to you Martina Govednik, mezzo-soprano, a wonderfully talented lady that I had the opportunity to listen to and to meet in Montreal this past summer...http://martinagovednik.com

BR


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 29 Nov 12 - 08:24 PM

Martina Govednik, mezzo-soprano, as Carmen...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gh9cMhK3fK8


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 29 Nov 12 - 09:11 PM

Easy on the eyes.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 30 Nov 12 - 08:16 AM

Thanks for that, Bob. She has a beautiful voice.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,Bob Ryzkiewicz
Date: 30 Nov 12 - 08:16 PM

Stilly River Sage: I found Martina via an invitation to an Art event that an old friend was involved with.

Her performance was in a Church (in the Gay Village of Montreal) with Art displayed on the floor. She began doing Carmen alone, then with an accompanist. She sang to the Art and a group of about 25 people.

Being a performer myself, and I know many of you also will appreciate, having played to small groups of people, where it took every fibre of your being to do the best show you could. The sound was not right, and doing Carmen in the round, so to speak, impressed me. She just rolled over the technical obstacles.

Not too far off from the Folk musician who finds gigs, or creates them.

Her talent needs exposure, (see more on YouTube) just doing my part to help...bob


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Nov 12 - 09:13 PM

The backup was not exactly the Metropolitan Opera Chorus, but they were giving it a shot, and SHE has The Voice, and all the Moves.

I'll be looking for her name in the future.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 21 Dec 12 - 09:42 PM

On Wednesday night I saw the broadcast of the Met Opera's production of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, an opera I'd never heard of until the Met put it on it's schedule. (Remember, I'm fairly new to opera and have a lot to learn.) It was glorious. In addition to the beautiful music and singing, Elina Garanca and Kate Lindsay were wonderful in trouser roles. The acting was excellent. The set and costumes were impressive. I Hope others get a chance to see it.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 22 Dec 12 - 11:36 AM

Sounds wonderful!

How do the ticket costs compare to a regular film showing at the theater?

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 22 Dec 12 - 10:20 PM

the regular price for movies is $8.50, but there are discounts for seniors and children--a whopping 50¢ less for each.. There are also "Bargain Tuesdays" when all tickets are $7 and Senior Wednesdays when people 60 and older pay $5.50. The live broadcasts of operas on Saturday are $25 ($23 for seniors; $12 for children. The rebroadcasts I go to on Wednesdays are $19 for everyone. The Showcase Cinemas I go to has a loyalty card, Starpass. With it I earn points for every dollar I spend there. I can use them for a free soft drink, free popcorn, and when I get enough I get a free movie. I can't use them for special events like operas, but I do earn points when I buy an opera ticket. I think I'll be seeing more movies than in years past. I have already earned one ticket which I will use for Les Miserables.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 23 Dec 12 - 10:26 AM

ChanteyLass, I envy you. Right now, We're in the process of moving and just can't deal with anything else. The up side is that once we get to the mountains of North Georgia, Gainsville, Ga. is only an hour away, and has a theater that shows the Met series.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 30 Dec 12 - 12:38 AM

Yay! Enjoy! A few years ago I thought I would never be interested in opera but met others who raved about it. I decided to broaden my horizons and am glad I did. Yet it still seems odd and somewhat elitist. Folk music seems accessible to everyone, but opera? Not so sure. I am glad that my friend has joined me there, and yes she is quieter during the broadcasts. She has also joined me at folk concerts, but only for one performer--Christine Lavin!

For others who want to see opera broadcasts, every year they are adding locations in the US and internationally. If there is nothing in your area yet, maybe there will be eventually. Don't fear it, but try it out. I still think that I would not like this without the subtitles, and I arrive early to be sure that I can see them.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Dec 12 - 03:37 AM

Never been able to get around the picture of Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny while singing "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit", in the Looney Tunes operatic send-up - a classic.
Tend to agree with Rossini - "Wagner has lovely moments but awful quarters of an hour".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 30 Dec 12 - 09:37 AM

Since we are moving to the middle of nowhere, I'm checking out the Met On Line. It has a huge selection of operas including most of those which have been presented at the movies. I'm not sure if it shows the new season at the same time as it happens at the movie theaters. I'm really going to miss the opera classes I've been taking for several years at a local college.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 20 Jan 13 - 09:56 PM

Saw L'eliser D'amore on New Hampshire PBS yesterday. It was an excellent production. We're moving to Georgia this week. Does anybody know if Georgia Public Television carries Great Performances at the Met? I googled it to death, but couldn't get any information. I have options, but have enjoyed these broadcasts over the years. Thanks, Elmore

g


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Jan 13 - 01:51 AM

This has nothing to do with folk music!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 21 Jan 13 - 09:12 AM

So?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 21 Jan 13 - 10:28 AM

Unnamed GUEST, pull up your socks and move along. You saw the title - "Opera" - you can figure it won't interest you. The great thing about Mudcat.org is that it serves a lot of music interests.

Elmore, though it detects my current region when I navigate to the http://www.pbs.org/tv_schedules/ site there is an "edit settings" link in gray near the top right of the page. Enter your new town and see what's in the schedule. I'm sure if you're near a large market you'll see that program, it is a staple. You need to start worrying if you don't find PBS at all. I lived in a small town in northern Louisiana for a few months in 1981 and they had a nascent PBS station - the only classical music I could hear in the region was what was broadcast on PBS. It was a lifesaver (the area was so rural and southern that there weren't even rock and roll radio stations, they were only country or church.)

The good thing in this day and age is that with a good Internet connection you can navigate to a region's station and watch much of it online, and become a donor to that station to support their programs. There was no Internet in 1981 and I didn't get my first computer until 1984 and I think our connectivity began three or four years later. How far we have come!

A note to Don - I still have those four Wagner (Ring Cycle) operas in my computer and this week I figured out how to get them out of the "recorded TV" files. The .wtv files aren't compatible with much of anything but can be converted within the program and burned to a disk. I'll stick each of those on BluRay. It's very slow - to get a program converted and burned to disk I have to start in the evening and leave it running overnight. I'll examine the reviews of various conversion programs and see about doing it faster. In Explorer can mouse over the .wtv file and choose to quickly convert it to the older dvr-ms file type, and I think the various free and for fee converters may go from there to put it in a more universal file type.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 21 Jan 13 - 12:29 PM

Thanks, SRS, I'll give that a try. We're going to be living 2 hours or so north of Atlanta, but I'm pretty sure we have a PBS outlet.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 21 Jan 13 - 04:28 PM

Around here in Texas I think a lot of outlying counties and towns cable systems have the Dallas/Fort Worth channels in their lineups. Assuming something similar exists there, it would make sense that they would carry however many PBS stations are in the Atlanta area.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Genie
Date: 22 Jan 13 - 12:30 AM

I'm finding this thread very interesting, though it seems to be wandering far and wide!

BTW, "Guest" who doth keep proclaiming lack of interest in the topic and questioning its fit to "folk music,"
there are songs most definitely adopted as "folk music" (not to mention other genres such as jazz, blues) that come from opera. such as the Gershwin/Gershwin/Heyward aria "Summertime," from "Porgy And Bess."

Which brings me to the question of what distinguishes a "musical" from an "opera." My understanding, simplistic as it may be, is that in an "opera," all or nearly all the lines are SUNG, whereas in a "musical, " spoken dialogue is interrupted from time to time (sometimes quite unnaturally) by the actors bursting into song and maybe dance as well.
So the original "Porgy And Bess" (as, I understood it, George Gershwin construed it), as well as Lloyd-Webber's "Cats," the Broadway version of "Les Misérables," and the show "Miss Saigon," are really operas (even though they're - shudder! - in English and don't sound like "classical music." Almost all other theatre productions and movies I can think of where there are a lot of songs sung/danced by the actors are "musicals," complete with a lot of spoken dialogue.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 22 Jan 13 - 01:02 AM

I'll be interested to see what answer you get to this one. I think the lines between operetta and opera and musicals have blurred a lot in recent times.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 22 Jan 13 - 11:47 AM

To complicate matters, the French created opera comique, the Germans, Singspiel, in the eighteenth century, both of which had speaking parts, but nontheless were considered to be opera.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Mar 13 - 01:02 PM

Listening now to "Parsifal," Met broadcast, on Catmusica. Wonderful singing.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Ron Davies
Date: 02 Mar 13 - 01:54 PM

So this thread is up again.   I'm not an opera buff , in general ,but quite a few of the overtures --and even more choruses--are just sublime.   OK, I'm not an unbiased observer, having been in orchestras which played many overtures and in choruses which have done opera choruses.

At least twice we did an opera chorus concert.   Sold out the Kennedy Center concert hall.   And great fun--among other things, like the soloists, the chorus has to assume roles through the music.    I'm pushing to do another one.



One more thing:   there are allegations, fine, but no proof, that Schubert was a pedopohile.

Fascinating the way some folks like to lynch people in the Mudcat Kangaroo Court.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 02 Mar 13 - 02:18 PM

That was some out-of-the-blue stuff, Ron.

What can you tell us about Catmusica? I found a site, but can't hear it. Is it only in Spain? How are you listening to it?

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Mar 13 - 03:06 PM

Never any problem listening to catmusica (Barcelona). They have two classical streams on the net, so one has a choice. I think that they are on 24/7, but I haven't listened beyond about 10pm, MST.

I see http://www.catmusica.cat/index_cm.htm at the top of the page.

Their language is Catalan; no Spanish.

The vocalists are Jonas Kaufman, tenor; Katerina Delayman, soprano; Rene Pape, baix; Peter Mattel, bariton; Evgeny Nikitin, baix-bariton and Runi Brattaberg, baix.
I may try and get a cd of this performance, if it becomes available.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 02 Mar 13 - 06:54 PM

I have now seen more Met in HD broadcasts.

On jan. 9 I saw Un Ballo in Maschera. It was good, but I think I'm more impressed by more elaborate sets and costumes than were used in this production. As an aside, I think this is the only broadcast this season in which Dmitri Hvorostovsky appears. He has a small following among a group of people from Providence's East Side (a fairly pricey neighborhood). They only come to the operas in which he appears. The women in that group tend to gasp and giggle when he appears on screen. However, they didn't come to this one.

I skipped Aida on January 16 because it had been done two years ago and my budget isn't endless. However, the woman who sang the lead was a different one and I was impressed with her in the previews.

On January 23 I saw Les Troyens, and enjoyed it very much.

On Feb. 6 I saw Maria Stuarda, the opera that I had most looked forward to this season. I was not disappointed. It was very dramatic.

Next up, on Wednesday, will be Rigoletto==set in Las Vegas in 1960! Last week I used a free pass to see the movie Quartet, which is about four opera singers living in a retirement home who are rehearsing to perform a quartet from this opera as part of a fundraiser for the home. I am looking forward to seeing that quartet performed.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Ron Davies
Date: 04 Mar 13 - 09:36 PM

"out of the blue"    The Schubert allegation is earlier in this thread. But it's presented as a fact.   A rather revolting smear--by somebody who is not careful about facts.

I considered responding at the time. But it slipped by.




The opera chorus and overture observations however are not out of the blue, I'm sure.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 04 Mar 13 - 10:45 PM

It's long enough I don't remember what all is in it. I'll review the posts later. A 200-year-old accusation is a bit of a reach.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Ron Davies
Date: 05 Mar 13 - 06:46 PM

It's an--off the cuff--smear.   And I will not let it pass a second time. Admittedly I'm not an unbiased observer:   Schubert's 5th, 8th and 9th, the Trout Quintet, the String Quintet in C and the Piano Trios 1 and 2 are some of my favorite music.

i.e.   I think Merle Haggard put it pretty well--I'm sure he was thinking of his reaction to an attack on Schubert, wasn't he?---   "walkin' on the fightin' side of me".


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 06 Mar 13 - 10:23 AM

Many of the eighteenth and nineteenth century led unhappy lives. Some were mad as hatters. Doesn't detract from the beauty of their music.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,999
Date: 06 Mar 13 - 11:34 AM

It's goin' downhill. Two bits to anyone who can listen to over a minute of this.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 06 Mar 13 - 02:41 PM

999: I tried. You get to keep your two bits.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 06 Mar 13 - 02:48 PM

Let's use the 200th post to celebrate Florence Foster Jenkins, shall we?

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 06 Mar 13 - 02:49 PM

That was the 201st for purists.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST,999
Date: 06 Mar 13 - 02:59 PM

Elmore, it was a safe bet. I ground my teeth so much at seconds 6, 20 and 29 that I shut the volume completely and closed the YouTube link. It gives new meaning to the word terrible.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Mar 13 - 06:31 PM

Lord, my EARS!!

If that's "opera," then I'm the Maharajah of Screamandrunabad!

The nearest thing I've heard to that is from a bunch of horny alleycats sitting on a back fence and announcing their distress to the world at large!

Oy!!

=======

But Florence Foster Jenkins.

Gotta give her full marks for trying, poor lady. She did manage to fill concert halls because her performances were even funnier that those of Anna Russell. The big difference of course is that Anna Russell intended to be funny. Mrs. Jenkins was dead serious, and seemed to be totally unaware of her—um—how can I put this delicately?—vocal shortcomings.

One didn't know whether to feel deeply sorry for her or run screaming with your hands over your ears! Little of both, I guess.

For those who are thick enough to think this is opera, be it noted that she never sang in an actual opera (nor ever would) and when she gave a recital, she hired the hall on her own dime.

Now, as to Anna Russell, here's the real scoop.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Stringsinger
Date: 06 Mar 13 - 07:09 PM

Opera was decidedly a European invention exalting drama to the heights of music.
I see it as a larger picture of what could be called musical theater. It's interesting to see the overlap when Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" can be performed by the New York Opera Company as well as opera revivals of "Porgy and Bess".

In order for opera to survive as a relevant art form, new approaches must be taken to fix the many creaky libretti. (Boito and Verdi exempted here, also The Magic Flute).

The opera singer is an amazing athlete of the voice and to understand it requires some folkies to put on a different set of ears.

To criticize opera as being pretentious is narrow minded. It is a unique art form and an interesting musical world. I enjoy Philip Glass in his approach to opera. I can't quite grok "Vozzeck" however though I do appreciate Berg's musicianship.

The standard repertory of opera tried-and-true makes up for its libretti by a melding of scenery, musicianship, compositional prowess and beautiful voices.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 06 Mar 13 - 08:00 PM

That particular Anna Russell bit didn't age as well as some of the rest of her program. I love her description of the Ring Cycle.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Elmore
Date: 06 Mar 13 - 09:18 PM

SRS: I don't think Russell's Ring Cycle bit will ever go out of fashion. I love it.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Mar 13 - 09:20 PM

Anna Russell's laying out, with examples, of the Ring Cycle is, to coin a word, a classic.

As I mention toward the top of this thread, Barbara and I have taken in Seattle Opera's production of the Ring, sitting through all four very long operas in one week. About twenty hours. We could tell at the end of the week that we'd been sitting a lot, but it was a real experience.

The real snort about Anna Russell's routine about the Ring is it's spot on!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Ron Davies
Date: 07 Mar 13 - 01:03 PM

"unhappy lives".    May well have been true for Schubert.   He was short --about 5' 1" I believe--and squat and had to wear very thick glasses.    His physical limitations may well have kept him from being drafted when Napoleon's armies swept through, but they also meant no female companionship.

Musical talent wasn't enough, it seems.

He did go to brothels--though recently evidence has been found that he did not die of syphilis, as has been assumed for a long time.

But there is no proof he was a pedophile, and that is my main point--despite the off the cuff smear earlier in this thread that he was.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 May 13 - 02:37 PM

Stayed up late last night and watched the Metropolitan's "Rigoletto" on PBS.
A recent setting was Little Italy in New York; the Met's offering is glitzy Las Vegas, Nevada.

Enjoyable for the most part. Zeljko Lucic as Rigoletto and Stefan Kocan as the hitman I thought performed and sang well; Diana Damrau as Gilda was a little weak.
Piotr Beczala as the Duke aparently was supposed to be a Sinatra-type character. He lacked Sinatra's spark but his singing was mostly excellent.

The evocation of Las Vegas was bright and eye-catching.

Just wondered what others thought of the performance.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 18 May 13 - 02:46 PM

I didn't realize it was on until it had been running for about 30 minutes. I turned it on but was working on something so didn't pay the attention I should have. I'll have to look for a repeat. What I heard sounded and looked good. The modern dress always makes me take a moment to decide if it fits, and it seemed to.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 18 May 13 - 05:06 PM

I saw it at the movie theater a few months ago. I also did not think I would like it because of moving the setting to las Vegas in the 60's, but I enjoyed it. I had just seen the movie Quartet in which the quartet from this opera is important, so it was interesting to see the opera so soon after the movie.

The Live in HD broadcasts at movie theaters ended Wednesday night with Giulio Cesare. Natalie Dessay was great as Cleopatra, and I liked the opera. Watch it on TV if you can.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 May 13 - 05:23 PM

Thanks for the heads-up on Rigoletto.

I checked my local listings, and my local PBS affiliate has it listed for 1:00 p.m. next Sunday afternoon (May 26th).

I guess I'm a hard-nosed traditionalist or something, but I really deplore "creative" directors who want to do "something new and interesting" with classic operas. I like the traditional staging of Rigoletto (period costumes, the whole bit) and sometimes get a bit angry at what directorial revisionists are wont to do.

Some years ago, Wagner's four Ring operas were staged by one of these types, who wanted to make some sort of social statement about the Industrial Revolution and its effect on the working class. He had the Nibelungen dwarfs all running around wearing hard-hats, safety goggles, and carrying lunch pails. Wotan wore the traditional eye-patch and carried the traditional spear, but instead of the long cloak, they had him in a black Sherlock Holmes-style greatcoat. Siegfried wore chinos, a plaid shirt and colored suspenders (he looked like he'd escaped from "The Red Green Show"). Ah, c'mon!!

Il Trovatore (The Troubadour) was originally set in Spain in the Sixteenth Century during a conflict between the Prince of Aragon and the Prince of Urgel. Manrico, the tenor, is both an officer in the service of Urgel and a lute-playing troubadour. He and the Count di Luna are bitter enemies and rivals for the hand of the lovely Leonora.

They are unaware that they are brothers. Manrico was kidnapped by the gypsy woman Azucena, whose mother the di Luna family burned at the stake as a witch. She raises Marico as her own son and wants to use him as a tool of vengeance against the di Lunas.

Helluva complicated plot, but some outrageously good singing!

Some "creative director" moved the story from Spain to Italy and updated it to the Garibaldi Revolution in the Nineteenth Century. Instead of armor and 16th century period costumes, they're all dressed in military uniforms, except for Manrico who looks like he's wearing Salvation Army rejects.

In the concluding scene (spoiler alert!), Manrico and Azucena are locked in a tower cell when in walks the Count di Luna and Leonora, who agreed to stay with him if he frees Manrico But she has just taken poison, preferring to die rather than submit to di Luna. There is a batch of singing. The poison acts more quickly than Leonora expects and she slumps to the floor, sings her last, and dies. Di Luna, realizing that he's been had—in traditional versions, orders Manrico taken out and beheaded, forcing Azucena to watch from the barred window. But in the updated version, he takes Manrico out in the hall, draws a revolver, and shoots him.

At which point, Azucena shouts triumphantly that di Luna has just killed the long-lost brother for whom he's been searching all his life. Then she cries, "Mother, you are avenged!!" as di Luna stares in horror.

The singing in this version was marvelous, greatly enhanced by the magnificent voice of baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky as the Count di Luna.

But the costuming and revisionist hanky-panky!??

I look forward to this rendition of Rigoletto. But I really dread the idea of setting the whole thing in Las Vegas instead of Renaissance Mantua—and the costumes and such.

Shudder!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 May 13 - 07:01 PM

I share your shudders at some of the up-dating. There are some horrors.

Rigoletto is such a simple story that it can be revised into a new locale without too much damage to the original plot. I have to admit that some of the subtitles, if they accurately reflected changes in the dialogue, were rather silly. Supposedly "Rat Pack" time is evoked, but the dialogue fell flat, at least to my ears.

There is a weapons change in Rigoletto, the sword as replaced by a large switchblade.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 May 13 - 10:33 PM

There are some operas that wouldn't be damaged too much by update, but why bother?

La Traviata is set in nineteenth century Paris among the fairly well-to-do. There's a bit of "bed-hopping," in that some of the women—including Violetta, the protagonist—get by by being the mistresses of wealthy men. But at a party, she meets a young man new to Paris, just in from Provence in southern France. They hit it off and all goes well until Alfredo's (the young man's) father steps in and puts the kibosh on the affair. The two are really in love, and finally Alfredo convinces his father that he loves Violetta and she loves him. They return to Paris and find Violetta, attended only by her faithful maid, Annina, living in squalor and Violetta is dying of "consumption." In the final scene, the two are reconciled, Alfredo's father is duly sorry for what he's done, and Violetta dies in Alfredo's arms.

The main changes in staging would be in matters of dress, and there really isn't a heck of a lot of difference between the formal wear the men and women were wearing at the depicted parties and formal wear today.

So—why mess with it?

Another is La Boheme. A bunch of "Bohemians" (would-be artists, poets, playwrights, philosophers, and musicians living in garrets) and their various affairs, notably Rodolfo, the poet and Mimi, the girl who lives upstairs and makes artificial flowers, and Marcello, an artist, and the headstrong Musetta. Once again, Mimi dies of "consumption" in the final act.

Set it in modern times and you have a bunch of hippies living in San Francisco or Greenwich Village, and nothing much changes.

[If fact, the musical "Rent" is a re-write (music and all—it's a "rock opera") of La Boheme, set in New York's Lower East Side. Same story, except that instead of consumption (tuberculosis), the modern Mimi, an exotic dancer, is infected with HIV.]

But again, why bother?

Oh! That's right. The director is hell-bent on "being creative."

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Airymouse
Date: 19 May 13 - 12:42 PM

AS is often the case on these threads, I find the comments more interesting than the subject
1)" Nothing to do with folk music" Not so. My friend Richard Chase tracked down that "Go tell Aunt (Abby, Nancy, Rhody et al") came from an opera by Rousseau, who may have based it on a Sicilian folk tune.
2)"madder than a boiled owl" (that the local PBS station was not broadcasting Wagner). The last verse of "The State of Arkansas"has the line, "Got a quart of whiskey my misery to thaw, I got as drunk as a biled owl, when I left Arkansas". I sang this song for decades before I found out that "biled" was actually how midwesterners pronounced "boiled".
3) "Schubert was a paedophile". Given the spelling, it seems likely that the poster knows that this word is pronounced with a long e, just like "pediatric" and "orthopedic." This fact has escaped every newsman in the US.
4) "I don't listen to Wagner, because he was anti-Semitic" At least Wagner stole from Mendelssohn, and Hitler considered Mendelssohn a Jew,even though Mendelssohn converted to Christianity. Also Issac Watts was anti-Semitic {consider his Cradle Hymn for example)


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 19 May 13 - 10:06 PM

Since I am relatively new to opera, I have no previous performances to compare to what I've seen recently. However in spite of that I have noticed that I usually like operas (and plays) staged in the time they were about. That's why I was surprised that I liked this production of Rigoletto. If you don't like any operas in updated settings, you may as well skip the production of Giulio Cesare I saw Wednesday night. It moved the setting to India during English rule. This production originated with the Glyndebourne Opera Company.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 May 13 - 12:02 PM

I have the DVD of the Glyndebourne "Gulio Cesare," which I thoroughly enjoy.
Good fun, if not authentic.

I am going to get the Danish Theatre production (Harmonia Mundi) for comparison, but I doubt that it is "original" Handel-Haym, the opera has gone through several reincarnations.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 May 13 - 12:23 PM

A "Carmen" with Sophie van Otter (DVD) has been released, which restores much of the original. Haven't seen it yet. BBC Music Magazine gave it a good review.

I have a "Carmen," but it isn't memorable; I can't remember anything about it.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 21 May 13 - 12:52 AM

"Carmen" is the only opera I have seen performed live and fully staged. It was an option on a tour of St. Petersburg. This post is more about funny stories of going to it rather than about the opera itself. One evening the tour group was offered the opportunity to see "Swan Lake," and everyone in the tour group decided to go. At a meal the next day we were offered the opportunity to see "Carmen." Nobody else at my table was interested, but I signed up. Eventually the guide came over and said I was the only one in the whole tour group who wanted to go, so neither he nor the interpreter would go. Instead he would put me in a taxi which would take me to the theater and the same driver would pick me up after the performance. That evening, off I went. Even I knew the basic plot of the opera. I figured if the sub- or super-titles would be in Russian so they wouldn't help me, but since the opera was in French I could follow along a little (4 years of French in high school plus one in college, though that was long ago). Upon arriving I was given a one-sheet program that summarized the opera in a few paragraphs in several languages, including English, so I read that. And then the singing began. In Russian. No titles. After the opera I went out to wait for my taxi driver to show up. As the crowd thinned, I began to get nervous. I had no idea how to use a Russian pay phone and no Russian money. (US dollars were accepted--and, I think, preferred as more stable than rubles at that time--everywhere we went.) Eventually a man came up to me and said "Taxi" and the name of the hotel our group was staying at. The problem was, he didn't look like the man who had brought me to the theater. I said that in English, of course, and he just repeated, "Taxi" and the hotel's name. I got into the car. Obviously I made it back safely, but I was trembling all the way. The next morning I told the guide about this and he said the original driver must have gone off duty. Then I told the interpreter that I had expected the opera to be sung in French because it was by Bizet. She said, "Oh, no, operas are always sung in Russian." I said that in the US they are sung in the language in which they are written, which surprised her because she had assumed they were all sung in English here.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 May 13 - 01:02 PM

Interesting story. Not an opera story, but it happened in Spain.

I had a meeting in Amsterdam, but at the time a circle return ticket was available, including a stop in Madrid. I wanted to see Avila, and took a train. I was happily wandering around, when I was stopped by two very polite Guardia Civil, in their stiff black tricorne hats.

They took me to headquarters, and to an office with many books on the shelves.
The man who came in was in a suit, and had a small beard.
he asked me what I was doing. He asked me lots of questions- all to do with the English language.
Differences in numbers was one subject. In Spanish, 22 would be twenty and two and a date would be 19 and ought two.
He seemed to be a well-read man and very polite. At the end, he recommended a good place to eat. Never any mention of why I was picked up; probably because I was alone, and believe it or not, I saw no tourists- (cliché warning) off the beaten track.

Getting back to opera, I have a baroque French opera in which the singers used the manner of the stage of the times. Many exaggerated hand and body movements emphasize the dialogue. I'll dig it out and post some details tomorrow.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 May 13 - 07:48 PM

I received a DVD of Guilio Cesare, Handel's opera about Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, performed at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, and was completely taken by the music and the strong cast.
Andreas Scholl, perhaps the best of the countertenors, took the part of Caesar, Inger Dam-Jensen sang Cleopatra, Randi Stene sang Cornelia, and Tuva Semmingsen took the part of Sesto, Cornelia's son. Lars Mortensen conducted Concerto Copenhagen. Andreas Scholl I have heard before, but the others were new to me.
Christopher Robson sang Tolomeo, co-ruler of Egypt. The villain of the piece, he was played as a vengeful, grasping but essentially weak character, who sought to seduce Cornelia and remove Cleopatra from the throne.

In one scene of contrasts, Cleopatra is shown in the bath; later Tolomeo is shown disrobing and taking a shower. Cleopatra's bath scene was tastefully done, and Tolomeo's was grubby, which I guess was the intent of the director, but I wondered how Handel handled these particular intervals of music and singing.
Caesar and the various soldiers are dressed in pseudo-battle fatigues, although Caesar is allowed a plum-colored tunic.

Don Firth complained about directors who re-stage opera in modern dress and with modern actions. I don't think he would like some of Francisco Negrin's directive excesses, and I would agree with him.

The singing is superb, and one can close one's eyes during Negrin's excesses and just enjoy Handel's wonderful music.

David McVicar directed the Glyndebourne production of the same opera, also with updates to late Victorian times. The music also superb, but. although a fine singer, Sarah Connolly didn't seem right as Caesar.

Is there a more traditional performance on film?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 26 Sep 13 - 10:06 PM

The Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD 2013-2014 starts soon. The schedule is here. http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/LiveinHD.aspx If you live outside the US and Canada, look for the orange box on the left side of the linked page and click on International theaters.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 27 Sep 13 - 06:01 PM

Thank you for the reminder and the link!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: keberoxu
Date: 28 Jan 17 - 06:35 PM

Interesting to note references, on this thread of all threads,
to Florence Foster Jenkins.
Now Meryl Streep stars in a film about Florence Foster Jenkins.
I haven't seen/heard it, but photos keep turning up in the media.
Has anyone here seen Meryl Streep's Florence?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: EBarnacle
Date: 28 Jan 17 - 11:16 PM

As I am coming late to this thread, I have several comments.
I have found the titling at the Met a distraction from watching the operas I went to see.

Today, I was driving up to Albany and one of the local NPR stations was broadcast today's Met production of Barber of Seville. Due to timing, I only caught the second act but thoroughly enjoyed the music and singing without the need to understand the words. Many years ago, the whole family used to gather to listen to the weekly Texaco Opera from the Met.

There have been a few references to Shakespeare. I recommend Harold Bloom's comments on The Merry Wives of Windsor in his book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. There is no need to read the whole book unless you want to. I am now in my third month reading this tome. Basically, he contends that MWW is the least of Shakespeare's plays, written to satisfy a royal command. I cannot accept that this trivial play could have inspired Verdi as it did. He does not, however, improve the story.

As far as the music goes, the music of opera has almost always been contemporary to the period when it was written. Asking West Side Story to be written in the music of Shakespeare's time would have been a nonstarter. As such, all opera is a collection of period pieces, meant to be enjoyed by the audience it is written for.

Many years ago, I bought Songs of the humpback whale. I simply lay in the cone of the speakers and allowed myself to be immersed in the sound. Good opera has the same effect of me.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 29 Jan 17 - 09:16 AM

There's nowt wrong with enjoying opera without understanding the words if that lights your fire. I've been to just one opera with surtitles (Carmen) and they didn't distract me too much and I'm glad I had them, though I didn't watch them slavishly. I saw a lovely production of Magic Flute which was in English and in my mind that knocked off a star. If I'm listening at home I'll have the libretto to hand though I won't be glued to it. We should remember that opera was never meant to be a difficult art-form for cognescenti only. There's a story that Mozart arrived home delighted that he'd heard people in the streets whistling tunes from the Magic Flute, and Verdi was a popular hero in Italy. As with all music we all take from it whatever we like and that could be different things at different times. Nothing better than a Mozart concerto when you're peeling the spuds and carrots. Or even a bit of opera!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 17 - 10:07 AM

I have seen the film, it is quite good, hilarious in places. Hugh Grant was excellent and Streep was...well, Streep.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Jan 17 - 10:10 AM

I don't much care for Wagner, and think he made a mess of the Nieblungenlied and Parsival and harbor the suspicion that part of the reason Ludwig II was done in had to do with "artistic differences" about that sort of thing.

That was five years ago but nobody corrected it... Wagner died in 1883, and it wasn't until 1886 that Ludwig murdered his psychiatrist and drowned himself.

I recently read a fascinating book, "The Monarch Dines", by Theodor Haweis, who was a teenage kitchen assistant in Ludwig's court at the end of his reign. He describes his younger self brilliantly: so awed by the institution of monarchy that he couldn't bring himself to think of any problem with the King expecting to be served dinner at dawn on gold plates with settings for his three imaginary friends. Ludwig was as mad as a box of frogs, but Haweis describes his deposition as a total upset to the order of nature.

Surtitles: I had an interesting experience with those watching Tristan and Isolde in Barcelona. It was sung in German (of which I could only get the occasional word) and the surtitles were in Catalan... which I could follow in places: it's similar to Provencal, and I've read enough mediaeval Provencal song lyrics to understand quite a bit of a love story that mostly came out of the troubadours' world.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: keberoxu
Date: 29 Jan 17 - 04:18 PM

Verdi and Shakespeare.
I would have to go back to my music history sources and re-do some homework. However:

There is somebody you have to know about with regards to how a weary old composer, like Verdi -- it was near the end of his life, remember -- could rise to the bait of an Italian operatic adaptation of Shakespeare.

That person is Arrigo Boito. If you know "Otello" and "Falstaff" at all -- I know neither one very well, I admit -- you know that Verdi's music is a setting of Arrigo Boito's libretto, and it was Boito who did the work -- heck of a chore that must have been -- of making an Italian lyrical "book" out of an Elizabethan English drama.

Don't forget, more than one Shakespeare drama went into Boito/Verdi's Italian "Falstaff," because some of the Falstaff material comes from a drama besides MWW....don't ask me which drama -- one of the historical plays named after an English monarch I suppose?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: keberoxu
Date: 30 Jan 17 - 01:55 PM

Parts I and II of Henry IV, it says.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Feb 17 - 09:37 AM

I have been listening to quite a bit of Mozart lately. Then I came across the thread here about Roland Barthes explaining why Trump succeeded.

It immediately came to mind that there was an opera already written about him - Don Giovanni. The connection is particularly clear if you watch the Czech puppet version, which makes the Don into a sort of unstoppably monstrous extension of Mr Punch.

Who's going be the Guest of Stone?


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: EBarnacle
Date: 11 Feb 17 - 02:25 PM

Just for the heckuvit, I went back to the Anna Russell videos. The closed captions were such a mangle that they were almost a funny as she was.

By the way, if you enjoy the Marx brothers Night at the Opera, I strongly recommend Lend Me a Tenor if it ever plays in your area. I am not sure whether it has ever been put on disk.

As far as the Guest of Stone, I can think of several candidates, led by Lady Liberty.


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Joe_F
Date: 11 Feb 17 - 06:04 PM

My exercise in philistinism:
http://come-to-think.livejournal.com/24657.html


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Senoufou
Date: 11 Feb 17 - 06:50 PM

I do like The Magic Flute, and I agree it's much better in German. I always smile a bit when Tamino whizzes in bawling "Zu Hilfe! Zu Hilfe!"


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: EBarnacle
Date: 11 Feb 17 - 07:17 PM

The first two live performances I saw were Trouvatore and Lucia at the Met with Pavarotti and Sutherland. Peak experiences, both. Incomparable!


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 12 Feb 17 - 05:19 PM

Seeing an opera at the Met is one of my fantasies. Maybe some day . . .


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: DaveRo
Date: 18 Feb 17 - 05:04 AM

Part 1 of The Ring Cycle was broadcast on BBC TV a week ago. Quoting from the BBC website:
The first of the four music dramas in Richard Wagner's monumental Ring cycle, in a radically stripped-back, critically acclaimed production by Opera North. Filmed during live performances in 2016, this is total immersion in a unique, all-encompassing music drama.
It was subtitled in English and had occasional explanations if what was going on. I thought it was great.

Part 1 is available on the iPlayer for another 3 weeks. Parts 2-4 are available for 5 months.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p04pd17m/wagners-ring-cycle-part-1-das-rheingold

More about the performance, and Act 1 the second episode, Die Walküre, here:

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/feb/13/watch-act-one-of-die-walkure-from-opera-north-ring-cycle-wagner


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Subject: RE: Opera
From: Acme
Date: 18 Feb 17 - 08:27 PM

It is sad to see how many of the original participants are gone now, but thanks for revisiting this topic.


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