GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Opera and Vocal => Topic started by: ComposerOfAvantGarde on April 30, 2017, 02:39:18 PM

Title: Opera n stuff?
Post by: ComposerOfAvantGarde on April 30, 2017, 02:39:18 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. :)
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: XB-70 Valkyrie on April 30, 2017, 03:28:20 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.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Mirror Image on April 30, 2017, 04:44:11 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.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Turner on May 01, 2017, 03:20:09 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.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: some guy on May 01, 2017, 04:00:12 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.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Mandryka on May 01, 2017, 04:31:31 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.





Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Florestan on May 01, 2017, 04:48:07 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
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Mandryka on May 01, 2017, 05:05:57 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!
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Florestan on May 01, 2017, 05:17:36 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

https://www.youtube.com/v/maZlBFdzAmM

https://www.youtube.com/v/JtPA-blKQzI
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Mandryka on May 01, 2017, 05:29:01 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.

Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Florestan on May 01, 2017, 05:34:16 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:

Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Mandryka on May 01, 2017, 06:48:17 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.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Florestan on May 01, 2017, 07:12:30 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.

Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: ritter on May 01, 2017, 09:02:56 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...

Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Florestan on May 01, 2017, 09:10:10 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:
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: ritter on May 01, 2017, 09:15:17 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).
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Florestan on May 01, 2017, 09:20:25 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
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Spineur on May 01, 2017, 09:37:44 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.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Florestan on May 01, 2017, 09:45:56 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
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Mahlerian on May 01, 2017, 09:48:46 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.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: ComposerOfAvantGarde on May 01, 2017, 09:48:41 PM
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...



This can be said of any work of art, literature, music, performance etc anyway, can't it?
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Tsaraslondon on May 02, 2017, 01:45:00 AM
I find many of the posts in this thread completely mystifying. My collection is not as big as that of some, no doubt, but it does extend to over 2000 classical music CDs. A lot of it is opera, but a lot of it isn't. It ranges from early music, like, say, Masses by Leonin and Perotin, to the present day, with CDs of music by John Adams and James MacMillan. Chamber music and instrumental music is probably under represented, though lately I find myself enjoying more of it. I confess I still find much of the music of Berg, Schoenberg and Webern and their followers pretty impenetrable, so not much by any of them. I do have Karajan's set of orchestral music by the big three, but, though I enjoy some of the earlier works (Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht, for instance) I haven't been tempted to venture further. Other than that I think my collection is pretty wide ranging.

When it comes to opera, though I would agree that opera is meant to also be a visual experience, I love recordings for enabling me to enjoy the theatre of the mind, without the intervention of some modern producer without an ounce of musicality in his soul, who seems to think he knows better than the composer and librettist. Admittedly nothing can quite eclipse the experience of seeing a great performance, in which all the elements come together, but going to the opera is an expensive proposition these days, and a risky investment. Sometimes the investment pays off, but quite often it doesn't, so recordings will often fill that void.

My opera collection is also quite wide ranging, taking in the Bel Canto,Verdi, Berlioz, Puccini, Mozart, Wagner, Janacek, Britten, Massenet, Dvorak, Debussy, Bartok, Handel and Monteverdi. Aside from Boris Godunov and Tchaikovsky, Russian opera is (oddly, because I love Russian orchestral music) under-represented, so maybe that will be my next avenue of exploration.

Mind you, I also enjoy quite a lot of musical theatre, jazz and pop. Does enjoyment of so many different musical genres make me unusual?

Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Wendell_E on May 02, 2017, 01:48:11 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.



That Carmen was by Francesco Rosi, not Zeffirelli. Zeffirelli did do filmed versions of Traviata and Otello around that same time, and live performances of Zeffirelli Carmens have been broadcast on at least three occasions, but he didn't do a film of Carmen.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Florestan on May 02, 2017, 02:34:08 AM
That Carmen was by Francesco Rosi, not Zeffirelli. Zeffirelli did do filmed versions of Traviata and Otello around that same time, and live performances of Zeffirelli Carmens have been broadcast on at least three occasions, but he didn't do a film of Carmen.

Wooops! My memory starts to fail me. >:(

You are of course right. My bad.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Florestan on May 02, 2017, 02:36:34 AM
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.

I was actually refering to conservative audiences, of the kind ritter mentioned.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Florestan on May 02, 2017, 02:45:03 AM
When it comes to opera, though I would agree that opera is meant to also be a visual experience, I love recordings for enabling me to enjoy the theatre of the mind, without the intervention of some modern producer without an ounce of musicality in his soul, who seems to think he knows better than the composer and librettist.

And there is more to be said in favor of recordings: when it comes to deep reflections and psychological subtleties, the remote controller is a better, vastly better option than a ticket. Live opera is such a whirlwind that I doubt anyone watching [insert your favorite opera here] for the very first time will be able to properly discern and absorb them. People who go to live operas to look for them are usually people who have seen, heard and compared several previous versions and recordings and know exactly what to look for and when.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Mahlerian on May 02, 2017, 03:02:33 AM
I should comment in reference to the OP that I do enjoy opera of all eras (Monteverdi to the present) a good deal.  I enjoy listening to it, and I enjoy watching a good production (regie or otherwise) even more.  Monteverdi, Mozart, Weber, Wagner, Debussy, Berg, Schoenberg, and others wrote some (or all) of their best music for operas, and to refuse to listen to it would be to miss out on an important facet of their respective outputs.

That said, I do not consider myself an opera fan as something separate from my love of music more generally.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Tsaraslondon on May 02, 2017, 03:17:04 AM
And there is more to be said in favor of recordings: when it comes to deep reflections and psychological subtleties, the remote controller is a better, vastly better option than a ticket. Live opera is such a whirlwind that I doubt anyone watching [insert your favorite opera here] for the very first time will be able to properly discern and absorb them. People who go to live operas to look for them are usually people who have seen, heard and compared several previous versions and recordings and know exactly what to look for and when.

That said, in a good performance and production, one's first experience of an opera actually in the theatre can be overwhelming. When I was young, I hadn't heard a note of many of the operas I saw for the first time,. Though I usually did some research into the music and plot before going, I generally hadn't heard any of the music. The Scottish Opera production of Der Rosenkavalier, which I saw in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with Helga Dernesch as the Marschallin, Anne Howells as Octavian, Teresa Cahill as Sophie and Michael Langdon as Ochs is something I will never forget, and, though I have heard and seen the opera many times since, it is that first performance that sticks in the mind.

Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: kishnevi on May 02, 2017, 04:35:49 AM
That said, in a good performance and production, one's first experience of an opera actually in the theatre can be overwhelming. When I was young, I hadn't heard a note of many of the operas I saw for the first time,. Though I usually did some research into the music and plot before going, I generally hadn't heard any of the music. The Scottish Opera production of Der Rosenkavalier, which I saw in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with Helga Dernesch as the Marschallin, Anne Howells as Octavian, Teresa Cahill as Sophie and Michael Langdon as Ochs is something I will never forget, and, though I have heard and seen the opera many times since, it is that first performance that sticks in the mind.

And bad productions can give a negative influence.  In the late Seventies I saw a number of Met productions during their now defunct spring tours.  Lohengrin was dark and dreary, Trovatore uninspired and dreary, and I have never really liked either opera ever since. 
It probably did not help that that period was possibly the nadir of set design at the Met--usually just painted backdrops. The only exceptions to this were Chagall's Zauberflote, Zefferrelli's Otello, and Boris Gudonov designed by not sure whom. The rest could have passed for mediocre regional theater, not one of the world's great opera houses.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Tsaraslondon on May 02, 2017, 05:28:12 AM
And bad productions can give a negative influence.  In the late Seventies I saw a number of Met productions during their now defunct spring tours.  Lohengrin was dark and dreary, Trovatore uninspired and dreary, and I have never really liked either opera ever since. 
It probably did not help that that period was possibly the nadir of set design at the Met--usually just painted backdrops. The only exceptions to this were Chagall's Zauberflote, Zefferrelli's Otello, and Boris Gudonov designed by not sure whom. The rest could have passed for mediocre regional theater, not one of the world's great opera houses.

Well yes of course the reverse is also true. The great pity is that each booking is a leap of faith, and I find myself less and less prepared to take the risk these days.

A friend of mine wanted to introduce her newish husband to opera, it being something he recognised that she loved, but didn't know much about. So she decided to book a performance of Madama Butterfly (normally a sure fire winner) at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. It was a revival of a production that had originally been well reviewed, so she took a chance and booked good seats in the stalls at almost £200 each. It turned out to be a profound disappointment. Aside from the Pinkerton (I can't now recall who she said it was), the rest of it was lacklustre, dull, and totally uninvolving, the Butterfly not able to suggest for one moment, either vocally or physically the child bride of Puccini's imaginings. Her husband told her he was enjoying it, but what she was hoping for (an emotionally overwhelming performance) just didn't happen, and it's made her think twice about laying out such a large amount of money for anything at the Royal Opera House again.

A similar thing happened with me. I took my partner to see La Boheme at the English National Opera a couple of years ago, also usually a good first time opera. We ended up leaving at the first interval (which was actually at the end of Act II). We might just have managed to cope with the ugly, modern production, with its tricksy idea to have the two lovers shooting up heroin during their Act I arias, had the singing and conducting been good, but they weren't, and it was just plain dull, boring and silly. One can only assume that the producer didn't believe in the piece as it stood, which is when I ask myself, why did he agree to do it? Many people find La Boheme overly sentimental, and with some justification, but if you don't like the piece, then just don't do it.

When we got home I showed him the DVD of Baz Luhrmann's wonderful Australian Opera production. This too updated the action, this time to the 1950s, but Luhrmann obviously had more faith in the piece.  The singers don't have the  greatest voices you will hear in the roles, but all of them are believable and committed performers, and none of them is inadequate. Anyway, it worked, and so overwhelmed with emotion was he, that we actually didn't get past Act III, but this time for different reasons. He just didn't think he could bear to watch Mimi die. (OK, we'd had a few drinks by this time).

Still, it was a timely reminder that La Boheme can still work if you take it seriously.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: kishnevi on May 02, 2017, 06:20:53 AM
Well yes of course the reverse is also true. The great pity is that each booking is a leap of faith, and I find myself less and less prepared to take the risk these days.

A friend of mine wanted to introduce her newish husband to opera, it being something he recognised that she loved, but didn't know much about. So she decided to book a performance of Madama Butterfly (normally a sure fire winner) at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. It was a revival of a production that had originally been well reviewed, so she took a chance and booked good seats in the stalls at almost £200 each. It turned out to be a profound disappointment. Aside from the Pinkerton (I can't now recall who she said it was), the rest of it was lacklustre, dull, and totally uninvolving, the Butterfly not able to suggest for one moment, either vocally or physically the child bride of Puccini's imaginings. Her husband told her he was enjoying it, but what she was hoping for (an emotionally overwhelming performance) just didn't happen, and it's made her think twice about laying out such a large amount of money for anything at the Royal Opera House again.

A similar thing happened with me. I took my partner to see La Boheme at the English National Opera a couple of years ago, also usually a good first time opera. We ended up leaving at the first interval (which was actually at the end of Act II). We might just have managed to cope with the ugly, modern production, with its tricksy idea to have the two lovers shooting up heroin during their Act I arias, had the singing and conducting been good, but they weren't, and it was just plain dull, boring and silly. One can only assume that the producer didn't believe in the piece as it stood, which is when I ask myself, why did he agree to do it? Many people find La Boheme overly sentimental, and with some justification, but if you don't like the piece, then just don't do it.

When we got home I showed him the DVD of Baz Luhrmann's wonderful Australian Opera production. This too updated the action, this time to the 1950s, but Luhrmann obviously had more faith in the piece.  The singers don't have the  greatest voices you will hear in the roles, but all of them are believable and committed performers, and none of them is inadequate. Anyway, it worked, and so overwhelmed with emotion was he, that we actually didn't get past Act III, but this time for different reasons. He just didn't think he could bear to watch Mimi die. (OK, we'd had a few drinks by this time).

Still, it was a timey reminder that La Boheme can still work if you take it seriously.

The ENO should have just produced Rent and be done with it.
One of those Met tours had Boheme and Tosca done with cheapy set designs, but in proof of what you said, they worked brilliantly.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Tsaraslondon on May 02, 2017, 06:27:39 AM
The ENO should have just produced Rent and be done with it.
.

It would have been a darned sight more enjoyable, I'm sure.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Mandryka on May 02, 2017, 07:34:16 AM
People who go to live operas to look for them are usually people who have seen, heard and compared several previous versions and recordings and know exactly what to look for and when.

In my experience people who go to Covent Garden and Glyndebourne are very rarely like this.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: Wendell_E on May 02, 2017, 09:29:08 AM
In the late Seventies I saw a number of Met productions during their now defunct spring tours.  Lohengrin was dark and dreary, Trovatore uninspired and dreary, and I have never really liked either opera ever since. 
It probably did not help that that period was possibly the nadir of set design at the Met--usually just painted backdrops. The only exceptions to this were Chagall's Zauberflote, Zefferrelli's Otello, and Boris Gudonov designed by not sure whom. The rest could have passed for mediocre regional theater, not one of the world's great opera houses.

Keep in mind that many theatres couldn't accommodate Met productions, so tour cities would often get simplified, or even entirely different productions from what was seen in New York.

BTW the "dark and dreary" Lohengrin you mention and the Boris Godunov were both designed by Ming Cho Lee, and directed by August Everding.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff? GAG ME WITH ASPEN!
Post by: snyprrr on May 02, 2017, 11:14:45 AM
This can be said of any work of art, literature, music, performance etc anyway, can't it?
r
You'll notice that all the Opera Fans are mahhhssive Drama Queens, dahlingka :-*


I love it when they say, "Oh, so-and-so is just 20 years to old for Oedipus" HA!! :laugh: Who cares? THEY do!! :o


And the fact that "they" live to wade through warbled out singers, trying to catch a glimpse of heaven, always elusive with such a high wire act as Opera Singing... it's almost a study in Comedic Tragedy.

And then... ooooo... it makes me so mad >:D The ones who say, "Oh, I like all genres and Great Music is still the same whether it's Opera, or Chamber, or Symphonic..."

NEIN!! >:D

Opera is... "different".


IT MAKES YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT A TOTALLY FALSELY CONSTRUCTED SINGING STYLE THAT PERPETUATES ITSELF EVEN THOUGH EVERYONE KNOWS IT SUCKS!!

FACT!!

And!

NOBODY "SINGS" DRAMA. Drama is ACTED!!!!!!

That's why "Musicals" are even worse, because they mix the two in ways nature never intended. I had a film instructor at college who...


That's why Opera didn't even "make it" until The Who came along, and even they fucked it up somewhat. It became obvious that "sung drama" would contain certain elements, and that these would become rote:

Overture
First Cool Song
First heavy Song
Comedy Number
Love Song
Second Heavy Song
Second Love Song
Closing Epic


zzzz....zzz....zzzzzz.....zzz........zzzzzzz....zzzzz.....zzz....zz.....



Then there's Meatloaf ::)
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: snyprrr on May 02, 2017, 11:15:48 AM
How'd you get the cool Pin?
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: kishnevi on May 02, 2017, 11:17:34 AM
Keep in mind that many theatres couldn't accommodate Met productions, so tour cities would often get simplified, or even entirely different productions from what was seen in New York.

BTW the "dark and dreary" Lohengrin you mention and the Boris Godunov were both designed by Ming Cho Lee, and directed by August Everding.

They were quite different in lighting and everything else. Mind you the Boris was great because of the singing, especially the chorus.
But this this review of the 1984 revival of Lohengrin thought worse of the production than I did
https://books.google.com/books?id=YuUCAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA62&lpg=PA62&dq=ming+cho+lee+lohengrin&source=bl&ots=W0opmXOot1&sig=Vz58uF0KVz5mqzri00wpE6-I-vM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjal-uj_9HTAhXB1CYKHf16CsEQ6AEIajAS#v=onepage&q=ming%20cho%20lee%20lohengrin&f=false
"a cyclorama of Stygian darkness"
Another review in the Met archives said the lighting was "typical 1970s energy crisis".
Title: Re: Opera n stuff?
Post by: zamyrabyrd on May 07, 2017, 07:29:25 AM
Well yes of course the reverse is also true. The great pity is that each booking is a leap of faith, and I find myself less and less prepared to take the risk these days.

I concur in this, would rather take out a tried and true DVD, rather than risk spending largish amounts of money and being disappointed besides.
Title: Re: Opera n stuff? GAG ME WITH ASPEN!
Post by: zamyrabyrd on May 07, 2017, 07:32:08 AM

You'll notice that all the Opera Fans are mahhhssive Drama Queens, dahlingka :-*


I'd say that is a caricature of a caricature.