Author Topic: American Opera? (and English opera too!)  (Read 8021 times)

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Offline yashin

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #20 on: November 06, 2007, 01:48:26 AM »
What about 'Harvey Milk' by Stuart Wallace.  Conducted by Donald Runnicles.

It has one terrific ending where Harvey gets shot.  It is frightening and unforgettable.

It also boasts the only known gay love duet in opera.

have a look  http://www.harveymilkopera.com/harvey_milk.htm

I bought it in the sale and enjoy parts of it.  Might not be the greatest thing in Opera but is a welcome addition to my collection.

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #21 on: November 06, 2007, 04:43:38 AM »
No-one's mentioned the two Virgil Thompson/Gertrude Stein operas, Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All.  Most of the comments I've read seem to agree that both Joel Thome's Nonesuch recording of Saints and Raymond Leppard's New World recording of Mother leave a lot to be desired, but as I recall (I haven't heard them since our library had them on LP) they're well worth hearing.  They're both somewhere on my humongous amazon.com wishlist.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2007, 04:45:23 AM by Wendell_E »
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Mark G. Simon

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #22 on: November 06, 2007, 05:35:46 AM »
I've seen The Mother of Us All at Glimmerglass Opera and found it to effective, though I felt it was mainly because of the excellent production. The piece is something of a blank slate for directors to do with as they will. Neither the words nor the music relate to any specific action that might take place on stage. I recall the murmurings that rippled through the hall about 10 minutes into the opera as the audience came to realize that none of the words that were being sung made any sense, nor were they ever going to make sense because they weren't supposed to make sense. The music, by its deliberate blandness, avoids emotional involvement in the action until the final scene, where the statue of Susan B Anthony sings, and the hymn-like music expresses reverence for her accomplishments. Somehow that scene pulled everything that preceded it together, and it was actually quite touching. It's not an opera you can appreciate on a recording.

Mark G. Simon

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #23 on: November 06, 2007, 05:53:27 AM »
Another American opera I saw at Glimmerglass was Robert Kurka's The Good Soldier Schweik, and I didn't know what to expect from it, but it was such a blast that when it was over I wanted to go back into the theater and have them play it all again. It's a comedy about the absurdity of war told in music which reflects an American reception of Stravinsky, scored for winds and percussion.  The "Enema Song" was particularly hilarious (the army's doctor assumes all of his patients are feigning illness to avoid battle, so he prescribes an enema three times a day).

Larry Rinkel

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #24 on: November 06, 2007, 06:34:15 AM »
I've seen The Mother of Us All at Glimmerglass Opera and found it to effective, though I felt it was mainly because of the excellent production. The piece is something of a blank slate for directors to do with as they will. Neither the words nor the music relate to any specific action that might take place on stage. I recall the murmurings that rippled through the hall about 10 minutes into the opera as the audience came to realize that none of the words that were being sung made any sense, nor were they ever going to make sense because they weren't supposed to make sense. The music, by its deliberate blandness, avoids emotional involvement in the action until the final scene, where the statue of Susan B Anthony sings, and the hymn-like music expresses reverence for her accomplishments. Somehow that scene pulled everything that preceded it together, and it was actually quite touching. It's not an opera you can appreciate on a recording.

I did see it at the NYC Opera, with the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, and it was for me a mildly interesting work that I'm happy to have seen but don't feel any great urge to encounter again.

Actually I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Porgy and Bess, and given Mark's interests in it, Torke's Strawberry Fields.

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #25 on: November 06, 2007, 07:00:46 AM »
What delighted me about Torke's Strawberry Fields is the way he has with the English language of making it sound natural and musical. Many composers set English as if it were Italian or German and it winds up sounding stilted. Torke knows how to reproduce the natural rhythms of English in music, and he has a good sense of dramatic timing. Strawberry Fields was by far the best part of the Central Park trilogy it originally appeared as part of, and shows its composer as someone who could potentially acheive something great in opera.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #26 on: November 06, 2007, 10:03:00 AM »
I very much enjoyed The Ghosts of Versailles by John Corigliano. I once had a video of the Met production, with, among others, Teresa Stratas, Renee Fleming and Marylyn Horne, but I'm not sure if it was made available on DVD.

I note you ask about the operas of Holst and RVW. The English National Opera recently did a production of RVW's Sir John in Love, which was hugely entertaining, though the opera itself is, inevitably, somewhat inferior to Verdi's treatment of the same subject (Falstaff). I also like Gustav Holst's Savitri, of which there is a wonderful recording with Dame Janet Baker. I saw it once many years ago, when still a teenager, coupled with Menotti's The Old Maid and The Thief. It cast quite a spell on me, but I can't remember a thing about the Menotti.

I have a CD of excerpts from Walton's Troilus and Cressida, with Schwarzopf as Cressida. Walton originally wanted Callas, but she showed little enthusiasm for 20th century music (not even for Puccini) and declined, so he wrote the role with Schwarzkopf in mind. I'm not sure why, but she never ended up singing it on stage and the premiere went to Magda Laszlo, though Schwarzkopf did agree to record these excerpts. It is a gloriously lyrical and romantic score, and well worth hearing. Later on Walton transcribed the role of Cressida for mezzo, so that Janet Baker could sing it, and there is indeed a complete recording of this version with Baker, though many critics have found it less successful than the soprano version, which was eventually recorded with Judith Howarth and is now available on Chandos.

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Offline Wendell_E

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #27 on: November 06, 2007, 10:50:54 AM »
I very much enjoyed The Ghosts of Versailles by John Corigliano. I once had a video of the Met production, with, among others, Teresa Stratas, Renee Fleming and Marylyn Horne, but I'm not sure if it was made available on DVD

I liked it to, and no, it's never been released on DVD.  Supposedly, the Met's reviving it in 2009-10 with Angela Gheorghiu and Kristin Chenoweth taking over the roles created by Stratas and Horne.  Maybe that'll motivate DG to release it on DVD.  Or not.
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Offline Brewski

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #28 on: November 08, 2007, 12:48:39 PM »
So lets have your recommendations! I have really grown to love Barber's Vanessa - probably the most dramatic turn around in terms of disliking to liking that I think I've had. At first I found it a little dull, but the more I listened to it, the more I realised what a great work it is. I would use the word masterpiece, but I tend to avoid saying that these days. The evocation of the cold Scandinavian winter and landscape is so subtle and beautiful - nothing obvious, no wind machines or storms, but there's something in the score that is extremely evocative of this. I'm not sure whether Barber ever made it to Scandinavia on his many travels through Europe.

I'm seeing Vanessa at New York City Opera tonight, and very much looking forward to it.  Don't really know the work at all, except for a few excerpts here and there.  Renée Fleming does "He has come, he has come" on her CD, I Want Magic! but that's the most I've heard lately.

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No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.
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Offline Brian

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #29 on: November 09, 2007, 01:20:52 PM »
This thread cannot continue without mention of this masterwork:



PORGY AND BESS. A masterwork so influential that it even inspired a Sesame Street parody ('A Cookie is a Sometimes Thing'). Porgy and Bess is one of the triumphs of American art ... the first act's gambling scene goes on rather too long, but how can we go thirty posts in a thread about American opera without mentioning Gershwin's masterwork, an infusion of jazz folk styles, good old fashioned classical opera, and some surprising musical experimental dabbling?

Offline Brewski

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #30 on: November 09, 2007, 01:27:15 PM »
Good for you, Porgy and Bess should absolutely be mentioned.  I finally saw it staged, about three years ago at the Opera Company of Philadelphia, in an excellent production with some really good singers.  The "big numbers" are of course terrific, but there's lots of good music in between them as well.  My favorite: "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," which to my ears has an almost Richard Strauss-ian melodic line.

--Bruce
No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.
     ~ W. H. Auden

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #31 on: November 09, 2007, 03:42:10 PM »
This thread cannot continue without mention of this masterwork:



PORGY AND BESS. A masterwork so influential that it even inspired a Sesame Street parody ('A Cookie is a Sometimes Thing'). Porgy and Bess is one of the triumphs of American art ... the first act's gambling scene goes on rather too long, but how can we go thirty posts in a thread about American opera without mentioning Gershwin's masterwork, an infusion of jazz folk styles, good old fashioned classical opera, and some surprising musical experimental dabbling?

I agree. Larry had already mentioned it though.
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Offline Guido

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #32 on: February 03, 2009, 08:14:33 PM »
Sorry for resurrecting this ancient thread but I just recently got this CD:
 

Fantastic stuff - not a weak number on there. The excerpt from Barber's Vanessa is absolutely fantastic - I really hope she does go on to sing (and record) the role - I've never heard it sound so good. But really its all hugely enjoyable - the Stravinsky, Hermann and Menotti all make me want to get to know those composers' operas.

On the back of this, I also just bought Menotti's Telephone and Amahl and the Night Visitors. I've heard his music harshly denegraded for being essentially dressed up melodrama and show tunes, but I've also heard that the best of his operas approaches the quality of Barber's work. I thought I better decide for myself. Also Bernstein's Candide (his own recording)

And of course I agree with the above - Gershwin's opera is his magnum opus and one of the finest American works for the stage.
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Offline Superhorn

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #33 on: February 04, 2009, 08:28:14 AM »
  I heard the recording of Adams 'The Death Of Klinghoffer on the CD recording with Kent Nagano and the Lyon Opera several years ago when I took it out of my local library and was very impressed with it despite the controversy.
  Some accused Adams and his librettist of anti-semitism, but following the recording with the libretto inclosed , I found absolutely no evidence of anti-semitism at all. In no way did the opera condone let alone approve of the murder of Klinghoffer, and the Palestinian terrorists were not portrayed in a favorable light at all.  And the music is stark and powerful.
  I also saw the recent PBS telecast of Doctor Atomic by Adams from the Met, and found it powerful and compelling despite the flaws which some critics pointed out.
  There is already a DVD which I have not seen yet of a performance of Doctor Atomic from the Netherlands, and the Met performance will also be released on DVD. Either way you should definitely try it.

Offline Guido

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #34 on: February 04, 2009, 09:37:17 AM »
  I heard the recording of Adams 'The Death Of Klinghoffer on the CD recording with Kent Nagano and the Lyon Opera several years ago when I took it out of my local library and was very impressed with it despite the controversy.
  Some accused Adams and his librettist of anti-semitism, but following the recording with the libretto inclosed , I found absolutely no evidence of anti-semitism at all. In no way did the opera condone let alone approve of the murder of Klinghoffer, and the Palestinian terrorists were not portrayed in a favorable light at all.  And the music is stark and powerful.
  I also saw the recent PBS telecast of Doctor Atomic by Adams from the Met, and found it powerful and compelling despite the flaws which some critics pointed out.
  There is already a DVD which I have not seen yet of a performance of Doctor Atomic from the Netherlands, and the Met performance will also be released on DVD. Either way you should definitely try it.

Yes it's an interesting piece - I think I marginally prefer El Nino, but both are superb operas. Haven't yet seen or heard Dr. Atomic
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Offline Brewski

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #35 on: February 04, 2009, 09:46:37 AM »
Sorry for resurrecting this ancient thread but I just recently got this CD:
 

Fantastic stuff - not a weak number on there. The excerpt from Barber's Vanessa is absolutely fantastic - I really hope she does go on to sing (and record) the role - I've never heard it sound so good. But really its all hugely enjoyable - the Stravinsky, Hermann and Menotti all make me want to get to know those composers' operas.

On the back of this, I also just bought Menotti's Telephone and Amahl and the Night Visitors. I've heard his music harshly denegraded for being essentially dressed up melodrama and show tunes, but I've also heard that the best of his operas approaches the quality of Barber's work. I thought I better decide for myself. Also Bernstein's Candide (his own recording)

And of course I agree with the above - Gershwin's opera is his magnum opus and one of the finest American works for the stage.

This might be my favorite Fleming recording--and she has done some beautiful work over the years.  The program is very well-conceived, she sounds great, and Levine and the MET Orchestra are the kind of collaborators singers dream about.  And that Bernard Herrmann excerpt from Wuthering Heights is a real find.

--Bruce
No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.
     ~ W. H. Auden

Monotonous Forest

Twitter: @brucehodgesny

Offline Cato

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #36 on: February 04, 2009, 09:54:43 AM »
Out of print unfortunately, and mentioned in the past weeks in other topics, is Bernard Herrmann's Wuthering Heights.

Somebody mentioned that they had a musicologist firend who had an "unhealthy obsession" with this opera!   :o

I recall the recording technology - even though Herrmann himself was conducting - not being the best.  The label was Unicorn.  But the performance - in my memory at least - seemed fine, although I know people have complained about the lead female singer (ELizabeth Bainbridge).  

A copy is available on Amazon...for $200!   :o
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #37 on: February 04, 2009, 11:21:25 AM »
Out of print unfortunately, and mentioned in the past weeks in other topics, is Bernard Herrmann's Wuthering Heights.

Somebody mentioned that they had a musicologist firend who had an "unhealthy obsession" with this opera!   :o

I recall the recording technology - even though Herrmann himself was conducting - not being the best.  The label was Unicorn.  But the performance - in my memory at least - seemed fine, although I know people have complained about the lead female singer (ELizabeth Bainbridge).  

A copy is available on Amazon...for $200!   :o

Elizabeth Bainbrigde, a mezzo soprano and stalwart of Covent Garden for many years, did not sing Cathy.  Further reading of the Amazon listing reveals the soprano lead to have been Moerag Beaton.





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Offline Cato

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #38 on: February 04, 2009, 11:59:58 AM »
Elizabeth Bainbrigde, a mezzo soprano and stalwart of Covent Garden for many years, did not sing Cathy.  Further reading of the Amazon listing reveals the soprano lead to have been Moerag Beaton.







Ah!  Unjustly accused!  Lady Bainbridge remains innocent!   0:)

Interesting that in the Amazon list near the top Beaton's name does not appear.

In any case, one reviewer says her voice is "unpleasantly shrill" with occasional wobbly intonation. 

Maybe that was due to acting!   8)
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Offline Guido

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Re: American Opera? (and English opera too!)
« Reply #39 on: February 04, 2009, 12:28:01 PM »
Yes, a real shame that it is not available. I would love to hear it.
Geologist.

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