Author Topic: Favorite Operas of the Past Century  (Read 18894 times)

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Kullervo

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Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« on: July 26, 2007, 01:34:16 PM »
I've been meaning to get into opera, which is a major hole in my classical listening habits. For the longest time I avoided it simply because I disliked the sound of the soprano voice, but I have since been won over.
Of course, the obvious answer to the opera question is "Wagner." I've avoided Wagner for some time now, really because the sheer length of his operas is a bit off-putting. Lulu and Wozzeck have shown me that perhaps opera is for me after all, so I'd thought I'd start exploring other operas in a similar vein. So far, the ones I've added to my "list" are Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane, Krenek's Jonny Spielt Auf, and Busoni's Doktor Faust. Would anyone like to share their favorites from the past 100 years?

Offline Brewski

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2007, 01:54:32 PM »
Do try Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle (1911), which is only an hour, or Richard Strauss' Salome, which is about 90 minutes, although from 1905, it doesn't quite make your time cut!

The two-character Bartók is my favorite opera, and the Strauss is not far behind.  The latter has one of the most blazing, difficult final scenes of anything, anywhere, and is often lifted out as a concert showpiece for soprano and orchestra.

The three other choices you mention are excellent: imaginative, and from composers quite different from each other, so they would give you a very good survey.  I would also explore at least one opera by Janáček, such as Káťa Kabanová (1921) or The Cunning Little Vixen (1924) -- any of them, really! -- just to see if you like his language.  Same thing for virtually any of Britten's operas.  My favorite is probably Peter Grimes (1945) but again, many of them are marvelous.

For things written more recently, you might try Ligeti's Le Grande Macabre (1975-77, revised version 1996), just because it's so wild, and again, who knows?  You might totally love it.  :D

--Bruce
« Last Edit: July 26, 2007, 01:57:02 PM by bhodges »
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Offline Solitary Wanderer

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2007, 02:16:13 PM »
I've been meaning to get into opera, which is a major hole in my classical listening habits. For the longest time I avoided it simply because I disliked the sound of the soprano voice, but I have since been won over.
Of course, the obvious answer to the opera question is "Wagner." I've avoided Wagner for some time now, really because the sheer length of his operas is a bit off-putting. Lulu and Wozzeck have shown me that perhaps opera is for me after all, so I'd thought I'd start exploring other operas in a similar vein. So far, the ones I've added to my "list" are Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane, Krenek's Jonny Spielt Auf, and Busoni's Doktor Faust. Would anyone like to share their favorites from the past 100 years?

I'm watching the Ring Cycle at the moment one Act at a time. So its about 1 hour per evening so its quite palatable. My wife was intimidated by the length but is enjoying this approach :)
'I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.' ~ Emily Bronte

Kullervo

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2007, 02:16:31 PM »
Do try Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle (1911), which is only an hour, or Richard Strauss' Salome, which is about 90 minutes, although from 1905, it doesn't quite make your time cut!

The two-character Bartók is my favorite opera, and the Strauss is not far behind.  The latter has one of the most blazing, difficult final scenes of anything, anywhere, and is often lifted out as a concert showpiece for soprano and orchestra.

The three other choices you mention are excellent: imaginative, and from composers quite different from each other, so they would give you a very good survey.  I would also explore at least one opera by Janáček, such as Káťa Kabanová (1921) or The Cunning Little Vixen (1924) -- any of them, really! -- just to see if you like his language.  Same thing for virtually any of Britten's operas.  My favorite is probably Peter Grimes (1945) but again, many of them are marvelous.

For things written more recently, you might try Ligeti's Le Grande Macabre (1975-77, revised version 1996), just because it's so wild, and again, who knows?  You might totally love it.  :D

--Bruce


Maybe I should change the title to "Favorite Operas 1900-Now"

Offline Brewski

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2007, 02:19:46 PM »
Maybe I should change the title to "Favorite Operas 1900-Now"

Nah...I mean, if you want to, fine, but I don't think the current title will inhibit anyone from giving you lots of suggestions!  :D

--Bruce
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2007, 02:22:06 PM »
I'm watching the Ring Cycle at the moment one Act at a time. So its about 1 hour per evening so its quite palatable. My wife was intimidated by the length but is enjoying this approach :)

That's very good advice.  Plus...Das Rheingold, the first one, is considerably shorter (2-1/2 hours) than the other three (about 5-1/2 hours each), so it might be a good way to stick your toe in.

Edit: almost forgot about Philip Glass.  I'm not a huge fan of his work, but he's written a lot of operas, listed on his (very good) website, here.  Definitely try one to see what you think.  The ones that seem to come up most often are Akhnaten and Satyagraha.

--Bruce
« Last Edit: July 26, 2007, 02:27:21 PM by bhodges »
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Offline Solitary Wanderer

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2007, 02:29:44 PM »
That's very good advice.  Plus...Das Rheingold, the first one, is considerably shorter (2-1/2 hours) than the other three (about 5-1/2 hours each), so it might be a good way to stick your toe in.

Edit: almost forgot about Philip Glass.  I'm not a huge fan of his work, but he's written a lot of operas, listed on his (very good) website, here.  Definitely try one to see what you think.  The ones that seem to come up most often are Akhnaten and Satyagraha.

--Bruce

Yeah Das Rheingold is technically one Act but four scenes so we watched two scenes per night. The next three music dramas are three Acts each I think.

As for modern operas how about that one the Pink Floyd guy did? Roger Waters Ca Ira :)

« Last Edit: July 26, 2007, 02:37:20 PM by Solitary Wanderer »
'I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.' ~ Emily Bronte

Offline Brewski

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2007, 02:34:40 PM »
I haven't heard it, nor much about it, but I do like Bryn Terfel and Paul Groves a lot...



--Bruce
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Offline Solitary Wanderer

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2007, 02:39:34 PM »
I haven't heard it, nor much about it, but I do like Bryn Terfel and Paul Groves a lot...



--Bruce

Yeah, I am curious about this one. It may be a bit more acessible for a 'newbie'.

But then again a 'rock' guy writing an opera...? ???
'I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.' ~ Emily Bronte

Kullervo

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2007, 02:41:50 PM »
Yeah, I am curious about this one. It may be a bit more acessible for a 'newbie'.

But then again a 'rock' guy writing an opera...? ???

Probably not for me, but thanks anyway.

Offline Brewski

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2007, 02:44:01 PM »
Here are two interesting Amazon lists of 20th-century operas.  I have no idea who the people are who suggested these, but there are some unusual choices:

http://www.amazon.com/20th-Century-Opera-Main-List/lm/19Y8QOWPEGVCJ
http://www.amazon.com/Hot-20th-Century-Opera/lm/MZ8YAB2SH6BE

--Bruce
« Last Edit: July 26, 2007, 02:45:47 PM by bhodges »
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Offline Solitary Wanderer

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2007, 02:46:39 PM »
Here are two interesting Amazon lists of 20th-century operas.  I have no idea who the people are who suggested these, but there are some unusual choices:

http://www.amazon.com/20th-Century-Opera-Main-List/lm/19Y8QOWPEGVCJ
http://www.amazon.com/Hot-20th-Century-Opera/lm/MZ8YAB2SH6BE

--Bruce

Thanks for the lists.

I'm interested in the Benjamin Britten Operas like Peter Grimes and Billy Budd :)
'I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.' ~ Emily Bronte

Offline Brewski

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2007, 02:53:06 PM »
I'm interested in the Benjamin Britten Operas like Peter Grimes and Billy Budd :)

Some amazing music in both.  If you want to try out some of Grimes, the "Four Sea Interludes" are often pulled out for concerts and can be found on many recordings.  They are purely orchestral, and magnificent.  I believe it was Bogey here who was discussing Bernstein's last recording, which has a performance of them (with Beethoven's Symphony No. 7).  Here's what looks like a great one on Naxos, too:



--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

Offline Solitary Wanderer

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2007, 03:00:03 PM »
Some amazing music in both.  If you want to try out some of Grimes, the "Four Sea Interludes" are often pulled out for concerts and can be found on many recordings.  They are purely orchestral, and magnificent.  I believe it was Bogey here who was discussing Bernstein's last recording, which has a performance of them (with Beethoven's Symphony No. 7).  Here's what looks like a great one on Naxos, too:



--Bruce

That looks like a perfect entry point. Thanks Bruce :)
'I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.' ~ Emily Bronte

Offline PSmith08

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2007, 03:03:04 PM »
I might say that Richard Strauss comes pretty close to being the greatest opera composer of the 20th century. Die Frau ohne Schatten and Ariadne auf Naxos are two particular favorites of mine, though Rosenkavalier, Salome, and Elektra deserve their respective dues. Of course, in my opinion, Strauss was one of the greatest composers for voice of the 20th century (up there, in my book, with Hugo Wolf and Gustav Mahler), as can be seen with the Vier letzte Lieder and the other Lieder.

Francis Poulenc undoubtedly deserves a spot on the list for Dialogues des Carmélites, which - all things considered - is a darned fine opera, if unconventional at times.

Offline grandma

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2007, 03:28:00 PM »
Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtensk fits your time frame.  If you buy a DVD, best preview it as it has some graphic sex scenes in it.

Kullervo

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2007, 03:49:16 PM »
Here are two interesting Amazon lists of 20th-century operas.  I have no idea who the people are who suggested these, but there are some unusual choices:

http://www.amazon.com/20th-Century-Opera-Main-List/lm/19Y8QOWPEGVCJ
http://www.amazon.com/Hot-20th-Century-Opera/lm/MZ8YAB2SH6BE

--Bruce

Ahh, that scarecrow guy is nuts! He used to post as "Rachel," but now he posts as "Frank." He also has a wiki page (no doubt penned by himself) that says he's worked with Pierre Boulez, among others.

S709

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2007, 04:23:47 PM »
Some of my favorites are:

Schnittke: Life with an Idiot. The music is crass, vulgar and harsh (as is the text!). From the opening chorus, to the first entry of the soloists and then the very ugly miniature-march which concludes with an even more hideous chord sets up the rest. And this is just the first minute. There is the little tango tune, the "arias" of the character "I" which consist of various combinations of "Ekh!", and the generally nasty atmosphere. And: it's also an anti-communist work.

Glass: Einstein on the Beach. I know you don't like this one Kullervo, but somehow I am always transfixed by it. It has a sort of feeling of repetitive, synthetic sophistication that is so like the modern world -- except for the little solo violin tune, which I find extremely beautiful, especially at the end when it accompanies the description of two lovers. I think this is a really important opera.

Nyman: The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. This is another minimalist favorite, a short chamber opera for a small number of performers. From the opening speech "Neurology's favorite term is: deficit.." to my favorite moments in the middle (where the first case of the musician mistaking his wife for a hat is mentioned) the story as well as the music is strangely touching and also feels very relevant to modern life somehow. (Thanks to Sean for my copy!! :D )

Szymanowski: King Roger. A complex and deep work, I must revisit it a lot more to get a better feeling, but the first time through was very interesting.

Vaughan Williams: The Pilgrim's Progress. A dreamy and wonderfully orchestrated musical journey... I haven't listened to this for a while, but it has a certain nostalgic 'foggy' quality and lyricism throughout.




Offline yashin

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2007, 07:06:33 PM »
A nice thread.

Without doubt -you need to visit the Masters of the 20th Century - Namely Berg and Janacek.

I would doubt if you find either easy listening.  It took a while for me to get used to the sound of Wozzeck-when you have been listening to mainly French and Italian opera it is quite different.  It is like Wine, at first taste you don't always like-but your taste matures as you taste different things.

My choices would be:

Die Tote Stadt
Wozzeck
Lulu
Kat'a Kabanova
Jenufa
Peter Grimes
Billy Budd

I think any of these would be a good choice.  Amongst the best there is.  I could list any of them as my favourite opera.

All except the Britten operas i think are best visited in the opera house or on DVD.  Trying to get to grips with Berg on disc i always found problematic until i had actually watched it.  Then the recordings on CD make more sense.

Other interesting operas i have seen from the 20th century:

The Bassarids-by Hans Werner Henz - an opera set in ancient Greece.  I saw it with DNO -Netherlands and enjoyed it very much.

Tan Dun - Tea - again i saw this at the DNO-Netherlands.  I also have the DVD filmed i think in Japan.  An unusual sound but enjoyable.

Walton - Trolius and Cressida - saw this with Opera North (UK)

Merlin -Albeniz -supposed to be Wagnarian opera in English.  I have the DVD and it is quite hard work.


Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Favorite Operas of the Past Century
« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2007, 07:16:59 PM »
A fine list of works so far. Here are a few that languish out of the limelight but could use a little exposure:

Poulenc's La Voix Humaine. As harrowing as it gets - with just one character!! But count your blessings that's all there are!





Shostakovich's The Nose. Stupendous work...criminally neglected!





And if you've ever wondered what kind of opera Rimsky-Korsakov might have sired under the influence of Berg, there's his 1902 Kashchey the Immortal. Here, Rimsky plays down his trademark plushness and makes good use of fin de siècle novelty. Jutting angles, stripped-down lines, etc...yet all in keeping with a typically Rimsky framework. It's an admirable attempt by an 'old schooler' to try out 'new order' waters...







« Last Edit: July 26, 2007, 08:08:52 PM by donwyn »
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