Author Topic: Antheil's Operas  (Read 2953 times)

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Offline jurajjak

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Antheil's Operas
« on: October 14, 2007, 09:14:42 PM »
Hi,

I'm interested in finding some information about Antheil's operas, particularly Transatlantic and the very obscure Volpone.  Has anyone ever heard them?  Anyone have opinions about the quality of the music?  I used to more enthusiastic about Antheil until I realized how derivative most of his Hollywood-era compositions were--but the idea of his musical language(s) wedded to opera still seems tantalizing.


andrew 

Offline jdoggtn

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Re: Antheil's Operas
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2015, 04:28:40 PM »
A 1949 recording of Volpone can be heard on the Internet Archive, and I believe it can even be downloaded. There's no place to hear Transatlanticfor free, but a CD of a live performance can be purchased from House of Opera/Opera Passion. It is Antheil's zeitoper, and a fine piece of work. While clearly Antheil was trying to capitalize on the popularity of Krenek's Jonny Spielt Auf, his opera is not at all an imitation, and he clearly has a better understanding of American life and American jazz and blues than did most of the German composers who attempted to incorporate jazz into opera. Most of Antheil's late operas are charming, melodic and musical, with the exception of The Wish, which suffers from a clumsy, melodramatic libretto which Antheil wrote himself. The Brothers has been commercially recorded in the last few years, and is available on iTunes. There is a piano/vocal performance of Venus In Africa on the Internet Archive, but it is impossible to appreciate it properly in that setting. So at this point there are still several operas that we cannot assess, as there are no recordings: Flight(Ivan The Terrible), which is Antheil's first opera, Helen Retires from 1934, the television cantata "Cabeza de Vaca" from 1954 and the "musical play" The Happy Journey.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Antheil's Operas
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2015, 02:08:29 AM »
Most interesting, thanks.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Antheil's Operas
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2015, 05:08:22 PM »
I wasn't even aware Antheil had composed any operas. ???
"When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something." - Dmitri Shostakovich

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Antheil's Operas
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2015, 02:33:22 AM »
I wasn't even aware Antheil had composed any operas. ???

Well, it's only thanks to GMG that I learnt he had written so many symphonies.
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Offline Patrick Murtha

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Re: Antheil's Operas
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2015, 11:35:59 AM »
I took the opportunity to listen to the recording of Volpone at the Internet Archive, sourced from the website radiOM.org. radiOM states: "This recording is possibly from the January 9, 1953 performance at USC in Los Angeles." The Manhattan premiere occurred in July 1953 at the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village, and ran for 30 performances.

It is an appealing opera, and I will eat my hat if it wasn't an influence on Leonard Bernstein's Candide, which premiered on Broadway three years later. Antheil hasn't got Bernstein's melodic genius, but apart from that, the style of the two works is very similar.

Offline Brewski

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Re: Antheil's Operas
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2015, 01:11:08 PM »
I took the opportunity to listen to the recording of Volpone at the Internet Archive, sourced from the website radiOM.org. radiOM states: "This recording is possibly from the January 9, 1953 performance at USC in Los Angeles." The Manhattan premiere occurred in July 1953 at the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village, and ran for 30 performances.

It is an appealing opera, and I will eat my hat if it wasn't an influence on Leonard Bernstein's Candide, which premiered on Broadway three years later. Antheil hasn't got Bernstein's melodic genius, but apart from that, the style of the two works is very similar.

Patrick, thanks for this interesting snapshot. As an admirer of Candide, this makes me want to hear Volpone.

(And welcome to GMG!)

--Bruce
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Antheil's Operas
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2015, 01:48:21 PM »
It must also be owned that sometimes Lenny's melodic genius was a knack for adapting good source-material  ;)


I'm curious to hear Volpone, too (based on Hawthorne?)
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[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Patrick Murtha

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Re: Antheil's Operas
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2015, 03:11:43 PM »
It must also be owned that sometimes Lenny's melodic genius was a knack for adapting good source-material  ;)


I'm curious to hear Volpone, too (based on Hawthorne?)

Ben Jonson, actually. Although the Jonson play and the Voltaire novel are about 150 years apart and differ in significant ways, both Antheil and Bernstein hit on the acerbic quality that they DO share.

I urge anyone who likes Candide to trot over to the Internet Archive and give Volpone a listen. I'd be surprised if you didn't hear some of the similarities that I do. I should think that it is highly likely that Bernstein went to hear Volpone - I mean, a new opera by a significant American composer of the generation just prior, being performed not in a traditional venue but in an off-Broadway theater in Manhattan? That has to have been completely up Bernstein's alley. 

I wish that I had had a libretto at hand while listening to the Antheil opera, but in general the words are crisp and easily discernible. The bright musical quality with a slight forward push reminiscent of Broadway musicals is characteristic of both Volpone and Candide. Volpone sounds eminently stageworthy and would be an interesting piece for some enterprising small company or festival or college opera program to take up. 

Offline T. D.

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Re: Antheil's Operas
« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2021, 01:48:02 PM »
Just noticed a cpo recording of Antheil's one-act opera The Brothers at Berkshire.
I'd never heard of it. Reviews/commentaries seem scarce. Couldn't find anything at musicweb, for instance.
[Edit] It's on youtube, I can listen and evaluate myself.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2021, 03:05:15 PM by T. D. »

Offline André

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Re: Antheil's Operas
« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2021, 04:18:23 PM »
Just noticed a cpo recording of Antheil's one-act opera The Brothers at Berkshire.
I'd never heard of it. Reviews/commentaries seem scarce. Couldn't find anything at musicweb, for instance.
[Edit] It's on youtube, I can listen and evaluate myself.

It’s very good and deserves to be (much) better known. I listened to/reviewed that disc 2 years ago:


https://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,26890.msg1234638/topicseen.html#msg1234638

Offline T. D.

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Re: Antheil's Operas
« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2021, 04:23:35 PM »
Thanks, much appreciated. I searched the forum, but saw this thread title and went no further.