Author Topic: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera  (Read 25268 times)

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Offline Cato

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Re: Conrad Osborne: Jane's List of Modern Problems in Opera
« Reply #40 on: January 04, 2020, 07:15:04 AM »
I read this yesterday. Osborne's singer friend makes some very good points. It makes for rather depressing reading though.


It is possible that certain European countries might - might - be immune to some of the tribulations in her list.  There does seem to be at times an odd snobbishness against opera and classical music both here and in Europe. 

I recall being upbraided by a German exchange student 20 years ago or more, as I was about to crank up a section of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder for my advanced German classes.

"Ve do not like ziss music."  And why?  It was for rich and elderly people.  Young people do not like it, he said, because it is too slow and long.

Recently via YouTube I showed my 7th and 8th Graders Luciano Pavarotti singing Panis Angelicus by Cesar Franck.  (A performance probably from the 1970's.)

"Why's he keep making those faces?" asked a student.

I explained: "His face is expressing the emotion in the text and in the music.  As an opera singer he also needs to be an actor."   Apparently for my student this was a new idea. 

I know that our Music teacher does an excellent job in offering Classical Music throughout the 9 years: I also know that she is told never to give homework, never to expect the kids to remember much, and is in general - and this is also the case with Art - not supported by the administration or by (most) of the parents, who are very worried about MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE.

And so students are taught by their parents that classical music is not important, or even irrelevant.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2020, 07:16:44 AM by Cato »
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Offline Cato

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #41 on: January 04, 2020, 07:44:39 AM »
And as an addendum to the above: let me mention the inordinate and incomprehensible mania in the schools and among the parents about SPORTS of all kinds!

The amount of time and energy expended on children's sports today is appalling.   
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline Cato

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #42 on: June 20, 2020, 04:20:57 AM »
New essays on the original versions of Gounod's  Faust and Puccini's Madame Butterfly :

https://conradlosborne.com/2020/06/13/butterfly-and-faust-the-originals-restored-part-1/

https://conradlosborne.com/2020/06/19/butterfly-and-faust-the-originals-restored-part-2/

Also, a classic recording of Manon Lescaut is reviewed:

Quote


The Manon Lescaut is a recent release from the St. Laurent Studio of the Metropolitan Opera performance of March 31, 1956. The romantic protagonists are sung by Licia Albanese and Jussi Björling, and the conductor is Dmitri Mitropoulos. This was a broadcast that acquired a legendary status among devotees, partly on its merits as one of those electric afternoons, partly for its presumed superiority to the RCA Victor studio recording starring the same protagonist pair, and partly as one of the relatively few complete opera broadcasts by Björling, who had dismayed us with frequent cancellations.



https://conradlosborne.com/2020/05/08/manon-lescaut-the-famous-albanese-bjoerling-mitropoulos-broadcast-newly-released-a-personal-report/
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline Cato

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Re: Conrad Osborne: Apologia pro Charpentier's "Louise"
« Reply #43 on: April 17, 2021, 03:26:29 PM »
Conrad Osborne writes about the merits and neglect of Gustave Charpentier's Louise:

e.g.

Quote


"..."Louise" is true verismo, both in subject matter and musical style—the only French example of that genre to achieve a lasting success. Its composer, Gustave Charpentier, called it a “musical novel,” and it does suggest both a Zola-esque naturalism and a Balzacian ambition,


.... Here in New York, it is one of five operas that had been fairly regularly in the repertory of the Metropolitan through the 1940s but vanished abruptly as of 1950, never since to return. (The others: "Mignon, Lakmé, The Golden Cockerel"—but sung in French, as "Le Coq d’or"—and "L’Amore dei tre re".)

All five were given some life support by the New York City Opera at one point or another, with "Louise" and "Golden Cockerel" (with the Sills/Treigle team) getting the best response, and the San Francisco Opera staged "Louise" for Renée Fleming as recently as 1999. But Louise is now no more than an antique curiosity for American opera-goers, and not much more than that even in France. Which is a shame..."


See:

https://conradlosborne.com/2021/04/16/mia-g-charpentiers-louise/6/


Mahler knew Charpentier and conducted the opera:

Quote



"...One day in January (Mahler) told me (i.e. Alma Mahler) he had had a very remarkable
opera sent him. "It doesn't inspire great confidence in the piano
score, but the full score is brilliant and dramatic. Couldn't be
otherwise. It was the hit of this year's opera season in Paris...."

 


See:

(Scroll down to #52)

https://archive.org/stream/gustavmahlermemo00mahl/gustavmahlermemo00mahl_djvu.txt
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline Cato

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Re: Conrad Osborne: Apologia pro Charpentier's "Louise"
« Reply #44 on: April 20, 2021, 02:15:31 PM »
Conrad Osborne writes about the merits and neglect of Gustave Charpentier's Louise:

e.g.

See:

https://conradlosborne.com/2021/04/16/mia-g-charpentiers-louise/6/


Mahler knew Charpentier and conducted the opera:


See:

(Scroll down to #52)

https://archive.org/stream/gustavmahlermemo00mahl/gustavmahlermemo00mahl_djvu.txt


YouTube offers a performance from about 15 years ago:  (The National Opera of Paris)

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/vsaEh8QtBq4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/vsaEh8QtBq4</a>

"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline Cato

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Re: Conrad Osborne: New "Jazz" Opera at The Metropolitan
« Reply #45 on: October 15, 2021, 04:25:25 PM »
Here is the link to Conrad Osborne's (fairly negative) review of the opera Fire Shut Up in My Bones by an American composer not known for "classical" works, Terence Blanchard:

http://conradlosborne.com/2021/10/15/fire-shut-up-in-my-bones-re-opens-the-met/



Some salient excerpts:

(After listing several operas using Jazz (e.g. Krenek's Jonny Spielt Auf )...

Quote
"...But those were works by white composers, incorporating jazz sounds into what were then modern-classical or music-theatre styles, and the jazz was that of The Jazz Age itself. Blanchard’s is contemporary and prevailingly laid-back. At times it establishes mood effectively, but having set in place a sort of timbral bedding and putting in motion often repetitive rhythmic patterns, it seems content with itself. I almost never caught it in dramatic action, or heard it either generating gestures that might be followed through in the vocal writing on one hand, or adding accompanimental urgency on the other.

With respect to the vocal writing, Blanchard has said that he’s sought to make it sound as close as possible to everyday speech, repeating the lines to himself to discover their inflectional rise and fall. This effort to fashion a singing line from the “line readings” of the spoken language has an honorable pedigree, with Mussorgsky, Debussy, Janáček, and Berg the most commonly cited referents for it—though as soon as one starts to actually deal with their music, one discovers how unlike speech most of it (including the best of it) actually is, and how interlocked with melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic happenings in the orchestra.

Blanchard seems not to have much explored his line readings for their poetic or dramatic potential; they are pretty bare. In search of emotional emphasis, he takes the voices higher and into a more songlike mode, but without the  build that would make that sound organic. “Destiny” and “Loneliness” are given passages of sustained singing, listenable but unmemorable..

...Fire could be said to be constructed on a through-composed, accompanied-recitative-and-arioso model, but with the constituent parts of only moderate interest on their own, and insufficiently fused to develop any sustained musico-dramatic force...

...The cumulative effect (of the vocal writing, spoken sections. and the performances thereof) is that in an opera founded on word comprehension, and with principal singers doing their best to fulfill the “diction” mandate, one can’t follow the plot in any moment-to-moment sense. (And the program synopsis, borrowed from the St. Louis materials, was the least helpful I have ever read.) In none of the many English-language operas I have encountered on first hearing in our auditoriums, including many far less speech-centered than this one, have I encountered equal difficulty with respect to basic comprehensibility....

(Concerning why this opera was chosen by The Metropolitan Opera to be performed)...

... It is patent on the face of it that nonartistic considerations influenced the first decision, and were determinant with the second. That was a disservice to the piece, which, if it had a viable future, would certainly have found it in a smaller venue, let us say the Rose Theater, where the Met could still have acted as presenter, but the auspices would have seemed less pretentious and the standing of the work vis-à-vis the canonical repertory would not have been on people’s minds. (One friend suggested it belonged on Broadway, but it would not have thriven there—no good tunes.)


...In an evening marked mostly by subdued, tentative applause at widely separated junctures, there were two genuine ovations. They were of a sort I associate with the annual high school musical, cheering on that quirky or sexy classmate doing his or her thing up there with heady bursts of “WOO!” over furious clapping, but they were ovations, nonetheless. One was on the appearance of the evening’s conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in a garment of many colors—”WOO!”—and the other at the conclusion of a step dance number in the hazing scene...



"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)