The Opera pontification thread

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The Opera pontification thread

Post  pinhedz on Sun Apr 01, 2012 6:25 am

Somebody on another forum got me started, so it occurred to be I should have got started back here instead of there:
... and hopefully help answer some questions or point out the particular facts of interest in the Story/Music [size=85](are they separate? .. written 'together'? .. ever performed apart?)[/size]
Opera was first created before the year 1600 by Italian dramatists who wanted to present the ancient Greek and Roman tragedies as they were originally performed. They believed the words were chanted, but didn't know what the music sounded like. So, they ended up setting the Greek and Roman dramas (adapted and seriously abridged) to Italian music. Some of the earliest operas are based on the legend of Orpheus and Euridice.

Very few composers wrote their own libretti. "Carmen," for example, started out as a short story by the Russian writer Alexander Pushkin. It was adapted into a French story by a French writer, and the French story was reworked into verse for the opera by a French librettist. Berlioz wrote the music, but not the words.

Some operas started out as plays (like "Boris Godunov" and "Porgy and Bess"), but the opera libretto is usually much shorter than the play (this is especially true of all the operas based on Shakespeare's plays).

A good deal of opera music (especially the favorite tunes) has been reworked into orchestral suites with no singing, for people who like the music but not the singing. Opera overtures also have no singing, and many are very popular.

Wagner was one of the few composers who considered himself to be both a musical and a literary genius, so he wrote his own words, based on ancient teutonic legends and metaphors for his own life story.

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Re: The Opera pontification thread

Post  pinhedz on Sun Apr 01, 2012 6:25 am

The conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski once made a statement (shocking coming from a classical musician) to the effect that the music in most operas is not good enough to justify the effort and expense of staging them. He might be right.

He named 4 composers that were exceptions to the rule--who he considered worth staging: Mozart, Tchaikowsky, Beethoven, and Gluck. Opera lovers would be shocked to see big names like Wagner and Verdi not on the short list.

Beethoven is an unusual choice, because he wrote only one opera, which opera buffs often put down as being dramatically static and poorly suited for singing (it just has better music than almost any other opera).

Gluck is also and odd choice, because he's closer to the baroque era than the romantic era.

For those who find music before Mozart to be listenable, Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643) is an amazing opera composer.

Of the operas written by American composers, "Porgy and Bess" is probably the only one worth staging.

Top 10 on the pinhedz list:

"Fidelio" -- Beethoven
"Boris Godunov" -- Moussorgsky
"Don Giovanni" and "The Magic Flute" -- Mozart
"The Queen of Spades" and "Eugene Onegin" -- Tchaikowsky
"Porgy and Bess" -- Gershwin
"Orphée et Eurydice" -- Gluck
"L'Orfeo" and "The Coronation of Poppea" -- Monteverdi

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