Author Topic: Opera n stuff?  (Read 2235 times)

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Offline jessop

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Opera n stuff?
« on: April 30, 2017, 03:39:18 PM »
So is opera like just some kind of different world to other classical music? Ever since I started going on music forums like this one it seems as if opera has its own fans and devotees and most people either avoid it, don't listen to very much, or are committed for life to opera and only (or almost only) opera.

I'm interested to hear from those who don't have a huge interest in opera as to what you like and don't like about it, and particularly what operas you have listened to  to form your opinions about it and what you like/don't like about them. :)

Online XB-70 Valkyrie

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2017, 04:28:20 PM »
It's a very interesting question, and I have wondered for years:

What percentage of "classical music lovers" would also identify as "opera lovers"?

As for me, I first became really interested in classical music in my late teens (late 1980s), and I quickly found Verdi. I used to listen to Aida, and, in later years, La Traviata, and Don Carlos quite a lot. I also really loved Bellini's Norma, Rossini's Barber of Seville, and Mozart's Cosi fan Tutti and Marriage of Figaro, and Handel's Julius Caesar.

I never liked Puccini--sure, he wrote some beautiful arias, but for me, the operas overall lack much musical interest. I also dislike excessive sentimentality in music. Hence, I am not a fan of verismo in general. For reasons I am not clear on, I could never get into Don Giovanni, Zauberflöte, or much Wagner other than Lohengrin.

I have gone through at least three or four major opera periods since the late 80s, but the latest one for me was a Lohengrin phase in the mid-2000s. Since then, I have listened to very little opera.

For one thing, I have become increasingly interested in Bach's music, baroque and earlier periods, and the pipe organ. I have lost the attention span to listen to opera, when I always ask myself, "Would not this time be better spent listening to Bach?"

Also--and this is the main point I suppose--I am very little interested in an opera's plot, the libretto, the characters, the setting, or the costumes. I am not a fan of the theater in general.

As for watching a play (or even a movie), I would much rather go to a museum and sit in front of a Mark Rothko for an hour, or go to the beach, or look at a tree, or do some photography. The operas I like (liked) were almost entirely for musical reasons.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2017, 04:56:18 PM by XB-70 Valkyrie »
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2017, 05:44:11 PM »
I'm interested to hear from those who don't have a huge interest in opera as to what you like and don't like about it, and particularly what operas you have listened to  to form your opinions about it and what you like/don't like about them. :)

I think it’s just the medium itself that I’m not particularly attracted to. I do like vocal music, but opera is just hard to stomach for me because most of the time I’m not remotely interested in the plot or what’s happening onstage. Also, the singing just is too in-your-face for me most of the time. It does seem to always boils down to the music for me, though, and 9 out of 10 times I feel like the vocals get in the way of everything because I don’t actually feel much of a musical narrative happening. There are, of course, exceptions to this as Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle has always been one of my absolute favorite pieces of music. I suppose one reason it is is because the the action onstage is quite static and it’s more of a psychological journey, which, for whatever reason, appeals to me more than having 10 different characters singing singing 10 different parts. But, also, this particular work from Bartók is more symphonic in scope than operatic, so I’m sure that has a lot to do with it as well. There are several other operas I love like Ravel’s L'enfant et les sortilèges, Szymanowski’s Król Roger, and Janáček’s Káťa Kabanová, but, overall, the genre has never garnered much interest from me.
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Offline Turner

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2017, 04:20:09 AM »
It´s less than 5 % of my listening that is opera, in spite of having maybe 150 of them. Other vocal works get more of my listening time. But I must say that when I really get to know an opera, things can change, & listening a lot to the same piece occurs then.

To some extent, it´s simply a process of learning the many, often complicated vocal parts as melodic and/or instrumental lines as well, and their interplay with those of the orchestra. Somehow this requires more abstraction than say if it was a concertante cello, IMO. In fact, I´d like to hear some operas as copied piano concertos for example, to get that dimension 8) Janacek is illustrative as a tough nut to crack in that respect, which I suspect in the long run will be very rewarding. But generally I prefer varied operas with developed, orchestral parts and interludes, rather than those with a lot of recitatives, dialogues, or relentless singing.

And of course there are also the somewhat off-putting examples of wobbling sopranos, or too much um-pa-pa in Italian operas, a different singing style and voice ideal in Eastern Europe, etc.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 04:29:56 AM by Turner »

Offline some guy

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2017, 05:00:12 AM »
I don't think of myself as a symphony fan or a ballet fan or a concerto fan or a string quartet fan. So, similarly, I don't think of myself as an opera fan.

Some of my favorite music is for opera, some is for ballet, some is for string quartet, and so forth.

Before I found some operas that I liked, Janáček's, I felt like many people feel, that opera was a separate thing, requiring different listening skills, with limited appeal. Now I think of operas the same way I think of string septets or tone poems or masses, pieces of music. Some of them I like, some of them I don't, just like with symphonies or concertos.

I suppose the only allure for me that's different for opera is that operas do tend to be longish. And if I want to have a lot of Berlioz, say, all at once, then Benvenuto Cellini or Les Troyens or Béatrice et Bénédict really hit the spot. Of course, he's also got some fairly sizeable pieces that aren't operas, too. So that's nice. For me. The more Berlioz, the better.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2017, 05:31:31 AM »
So is opera like just some kind of different world to other classical music? Ever since I started going on music forums like this one it seems as if opera has its own fans and devotees and most people either avoid it, don't listen to very much, or are committed for life to opera and only (or almost only) opera.

I'm interested to hear from those who don't have a huge interest in opera as to what you like and don't like about it, and particularly what operas you have listened to  to form your opinions about it and what you like/don't like about them. :)

One thing which makes it different is that it's dramatic, listening to a recording is no substitute really and videos  are somehow inconvenient and disappointing as an experience of opera for me. For me it needs the opera house ambience .

I used to be a great lover of opera, for years and years, but less so now.

One reason is that I find myself really repelled by the star system.

And I'm repelled by how bourgeois opera is, the glamour and the wealth. Men in suits, adverts for Rolexes in the programme. The idea of picnicking in Glyndebourne now sends shivers down my spine - I used to relish it but not now.

it's too expensive to go - in my experience one in ten nights at the opera are magical. Years ago I thought that made it all worth while, but I think it's just bad value for money now. I want to be in the circle by the way, where you can see the spit and smell the sawdust, I'm not interested in sweating it out in the gods.

Opera's a communal thing - it's sad to go to the opera alone. And right now I only have one friend who's passionate about it, sometimes I go with her but I think she's a bit indiscriminate!

I'm not so interested in The Art of Singing (did she hit the high notes accurately? I don't care.) I am interested in acting - but very few opera singers act with their body. And I'm interested in regietheatre.

I think with me it's partly a question of my friends, if I had a circle of friends who were into going to see Wagner, Mozart, Monteverdi then I'd be enthusiastic I think.





« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 08:32:06 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2017, 05:48:07 AM »
Interestinfg thread!

When I was about 14, Zefirelli's filmed Carmen with Placido Domingo and Julia Migenes-Johnson was a blast --- I've seen it on cinema twice on my own and a third time with my parents, whom I urged to join me. It was one of my first experiences with classical music --- love at first sight. To this day, it is my favorite opera.

I must confess, though, that I'm not a regular opera listener. There could be months between two consecutive operas I listen to. There could also be a month-long opera binge.

Frankly, I am  interested less in the action than I am in the music itself, that's why I don't mind silly librettos as long as the music is gorgeous, for instance Il viaggio a Reims or Il trovatore. That's also the reason I tend to favor Italian or Italianate opera, especially belcanto.

I might be a philistine petty bourgeois, but I subscribe to the notion that opera is, and should be, an agreeable pastime with or without a moral, not a grand and bold statement of philosophy or psychology --- therefore Wagner and his followers / admirers are generally not my cup of tea (although I've seen Der Fliegende Hollaender live twice (sic!) and I quite like Tannhaeuser).

In keeping with my general musical taste and preferences, my favorite 20th century opera is Der Rosenkavalier. I have once tried to watch the whole Lulu on Mezzo TV but I changed the channel after 10 minutes at most. I must say that the costumes (or rather the lack thereof in the case of the main character) were rather appealing, but the music was unbearable to these ears.  ;D

A a rule of thumb, my favorite opera composers have names that ends in -i, and most of them died before WWI.  :D
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2017, 06:05:57 AM »
Interestinfg thread!

When I was about 14, Zefirelli's filmed Carmen with Placido Domingo and Julia Migenes-Johnson was a blast --- I've seen it on cinema twice on my own and a third time with my parents, whom I urged to join me. It was one of my first experiences with classical music --- love at first sight. To this day, it is my favorite opera.

I must confess, though, that I'm not a regular opera listener. There could be months between two consecutive operas I listen to. There could also be a month-long opera binge.

Frankly, I am  interested less in the action than I am in the music itself, that's why I don't mind silly librettos as long as the music is gorgeous, for instance Il viaggio a Reims or Il trovatore. That's also the reason I tend to favor Italian or Italianate opera, especially belcanto.

I might be a philistine petty bourgeois, but I subscribe to the notion that opera is, and should be, an agreeable pastime with or without a moral, not a grand and bold statement of philosophy or psychology --- therefore Wagner and his followers / admirers are generally not my cup of tea (although I've seen Der Fliegende Hollaender live twice (sic!) and I quite like Tannhaeuser).

In keeping with my general musical taste and preferences, my favorite 20th century opera is Der Rosenkavalier. I have once tried to watch the whole Lulu on Mezzo TV but I changed the channel after 10 minutes at most. I must say that the costumes (or rather the lack thereof in the case of the main character) were rather appealing, but the music was unbearable to these ears.  ;D

A a rule of thumb, my favorite opera composers have names that ends in -i, and most of them died before WWI.  :D

Oh but you underestimate rosenkavelier, with all those reflections on aging and the passage of time, there's nothing deeper in opera!
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2017, 06:17:36 AM »
Oh but you underestimate rosenkavelier, with all those reflections on aging and the passage of time, there's nothing deeper in opera!

Oh, don't get me wrong --- I know there are deep overtones in it, or indeed in some other operas --- it's just that for me they are not the main interest. If I want only deep reflections, I go to theatre. Opera involves music as well, and if the music doesn't please me, then everything else is ruined --- while if the music please me, then everything else is of secondary importance.  :)

That's why I said, and reiterate, that my favorite operatic style is belcanto, and Italian in general. Afaic, an ear-and-heart-catching melody is worth a hundred deep reflections on anything.  ;D

EDIT: For instance, Tito Schipa singing Com'e gentil, or Toti dal Monte singing Un bel di vedremo

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/maZlBFdzAmM" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/maZlBFdzAmM</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/JtPA-blKQzI" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/JtPA-blKQzI</a>
« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 06:29:44 AM by Florestan »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2017, 06:29:01 AM »
Oh, don't get me wrong --- I know there are deep overtones in it, or indeed in some other operas --- it's just that for me they are not the main interest. If I want only deep reflections, I go to theatre. Opera involves music as well, and if the music doesn't please me, then everything else is ruined --- while if the music please me, then everything else is of secondary importance.  :)

That's why I said, and reiterate, that my favorite operatic style is belcanto, and Italian in general. Afaic, an ear-and-heart-catching melody is worth a hundred deep reflections on anything.  ;D

EDIT: For instance, Tito Schipa singing Com'e gentil, or Toti dal Monte singing Un bel di vedremo

Without wishing to lower the tone (actually no, I do wish to lower the tone) -- have you heard Bernstein's recording of the Act 1 overture for Rosenkav? It is the best depiction of orgasm in music ever -- you can almost hear Octavian's cries of pleasure.

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Offline Florestan

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2017, 06:34:16 AM »
have you heard Bernstein's recording of the Act 1 overture for Rosenkav?

No, I haven't. I have only the Karajan recording. Is it the next best one?

 
Quote
It is the best depiction of orgasm in music ever

Rumor has it that musically speaking Bolero is a strong contender.  :laugh:

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2017, 07:48:17 AM »
No, I haven't. I have only the Karajan recording. Is it the next best one?

 


I've no idea, Karajan is good because of the way she sings "der aufgeblasene schlechte Kerl" Everyone I know who's into this sort of thing says the best living Ochs is Peter Rose, I don't know if he's recorded it.

Rosenkav was one of the first operas I saw. What I remember most was the little black boy servant picking up the handkerchief at the end and wiggling his bum at the audience.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 07:52:10 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2017, 08:12:30 AM »
Rosenkav was one of the first operas I saw. What I remember most was the little black boy servant picking up the handkerchief at the end and wiggling his bum at the audience.

So much for

One thing which makes it different is that it's dramatic, listening to a recording is no substitute really and videos  are somehow inconvenient and disappointing as an experience of opera for me. For me it needs the opera house ambience .

It is often said that culture is what you are left with after you forget everything you've learned. Apply it to opera and you get either purely visual moments like the above, or purely aural moments like arias, duets, choruses and the like. Nothing like philosophy or psychology --- they are afterthoughts.

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Blessent mon coeur
D'une langueur
Monotone.

Online ritter

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2017, 10:02:56 AM »
It is often said that culture is what you are left with after you forget everything you've learned. Apply it to opera and you get either purely visual moments like the above, or purely aural moments like arias, duets, choruses and the like. Nothing like philosophy or psychology --- they are afterthoughts.
I couldn't disagree more...that might be the case for the vast majority of the operatic repertoire, which IMHO can merely seen as a good show, nothing more (so-so music in most cases, often ludicrous plots, routine productions too often), but in the pinnacles of the opertic repertoire, every component of the work has equal importance in this summa artis, including the "phiposphy or psychology" you mention. And I dare say that, because of this, works such as Figaro, Don Giovanni, Parsifal, Meistersinger, Wozzeck, Moses und Aron, Pelléas et Mélisande, and many more, are among the greatest achievements of civilzation...

« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 10:04:59 AM by ritter »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2017, 10:10:10 AM »
Figaro

I venture to say that nine out of ten people when asked about the first thing that Figaro suggests them will hum either Non piu andrai or Voi che sapete.

Quote
Don Giovanni

Ditto: La ci darem la mano or Batti, batti o bel Masetto or Fin ch'han dal vino.

Quote
Parsifal, Meistersinger, Wozzeck, Moses und Aron, Pelléas et Mélisande,

I venture to say that nine out of ten people will shrug while not humming anything.

 ;D >:D  :laugh:
« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 10:12:25 AM by Florestan »
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Online ritter

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #15 on: May 01, 2017, 10:15:17 AM »
I venture to say that nine out of ten people when asked about the first thing Figaro suggests them will hum either Non piu andrai or Voi che sapete.

Ditto: La ci darem la mano or Batti, batti o bel Masetto or Fin ch'han dal vino

I venture to say that nine out of ten people will shrug while not humming anything.

 ;D >:D  :laugh:
Those same nine out of ten people would't be able to hum (probably, would not even be willing to listen to) let's say, Schubert's String Quintet in C major, or Debussy's Jeux... ;D

EDIT: Reminds me, tangentially, of what happened last Saturday at the Teatros del Canal here in Madrid, when I was seeing the Béjart Ballet Lausanne: the frist part of the program was The Miraculous Mandarin. The people behind me (three couples, all in their mid-60s) were the kind that talk during the perfomance  >:(, and then comment about it at the end. One lady asked a gentleman if he had liked it. The answer was that it was OK, but that the music was "sooo contemporary". I was tempted to turn around and clarify that the score was composed almost one hundred yaers ago...

SECOND EDIT: Béjart's choreography of Boléro is out of this world (and appears as fresh today as when firts unveiled more than 50 years ago).
« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 10:23:18 AM by ritter »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #16 on: May 01, 2017, 10:20:25 AM »
Those same people would't be able to hum (probably, would not even be willing to listen to) let's say, Schubert's String Quintet in C major, or Debussy's Jeux... ;D

I think you're wrong about Schubert;D
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Blessent mon coeur
D'une langueur
Monotone.

Offline Spineur

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #17 on: May 01, 2017, 10:37:44 AM »

SECOND EDIT: Béjart's choreography of Boléro is out of this world (and appears as fresh today as when firts unveiled more than 50 years ago).
:-*  as MI would say "pound the table" on which the solo dancer moves.  I just learned that the Paris opera ballet decided to add this choregraphy to their standard repertoire.  This is my definition of what a classic is.
A woman voice glides like the wind
Of black, of damp, of night
And all it touches in this flight
Suddenly is over.

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Offline Florestan

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #18 on: May 01, 2017, 10:45:56 AM »
EDIT: Reminds me, tangentially, of what happened last Saturday at the Teatros del Canal here in Madrid, when I was seeing the Béjart Ballet Lausanne: the frist part of the program was The Miraculous Mandarin. The people behind me (three couples, all in their mid-60s) were the kind that talk during the perfomance  >:(, and then comment about it at the end.

Exactly the kind of opera audience for which opera was originally designed, and upon which depended the success or failure of such big names as Vivaldi, Handel, Rossini or Verdi;D

Quote
One lady asked a gentleman if he had liked it. The answer was that it was OK, but that the music was "sooo contemporary". I was tempted to turn around and clarify that the score was composed almost one hundred yaers ago...

Please forgive them, if only for the fact that by paying their tickets / subscriptions they support the theatre and its personnel.  ;D
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Des violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon coeur
D'une langueur
Monotone.

Offline Mahlerian

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Re: Opera n stuff?
« Reply #19 on: May 01, 2017, 10:48:46 AM »
I think you're wrong about Schubert;D

At least one Amazon reviewer thinks that the Schubert Quintet is one of the most unpleasant things he's ever heard, besides Britten.  He says it has very little melody and much of it is pure noise (I posted this before):
https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RM8EG8MY37TDI/

I would assume neither you nor I are like the reviewer in that we can very easily distinguish Schubert's Quintet from noise and think it's full of melodies, but I think you underestimate the ability of audiences to absorb contemporary works, many of which (like those by Debussy, Schoenberg, and Berg) are full of great melodies as well.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 10:54:59 AM by Mahlerian »

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